Spartans turn tide by forcing six turnovers
By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kalani Takase
San Jose State's second half in its 20-17 win over Hawai'i last night demonstrated what Dick Tomey's teams have always been about: defense and special teams.
The Spartans came up with six takeaways (four interceptions and two fumble recoveries), including five in the final 30 minutes to beat UH for the first time since 2000 — 20-17. It was the most forced turnovers for a Tomey-coached SJSU team.
"We have a good defense and we have some guys that can make plays," Tomey said. "We have some secondary guys who have some good instincts and we have a real disciplined team."
San Jose State's defense came into the game ranked 23rd nationally in both total defense (269.5 yards per game) and rush defense (92.5 ypg). Last night, SJSU surrendered 356 yards, but just 108 came in the second half.
"I told (our team) to just keep playing," said Spartans' defensive coordinator Keith Burns. "We've got a code that we play by defensively and just had to stick to it and play hard. It was a great team win, a great team effort."
San Jose State's Kyle Flynn picked off Inoke Funaki on the Warriors' first offensive play of the second half.
"We went over that play this week and we knew that they would send one guy to the flat and the slotback to the corner," said Flynn, a senior safety. "Our linebacker covered the flat, so I went to the corner and that's where he threw it."
The Spartans, who were unable to score off the turnover, capitalized on a fumble — forced and recovered — by Kyler O'Neal near the end of the third quarter.
On the play, Funaki pump faked, which sent O'Neal airborne, but he stripped the ball as he fell and chased down the fumble at the Warriors' 8-yard line.
Kyle Reed threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Clark three plays later that cut the Hawai'i lead to 17-14.
The Warriors turned it over again on their first drive of the fourth quarter as Funaki was intercepted by Coye Francies at the Hawai'i 26. San Jose State's Jared Strubeck kicked the game-tying field goal later in the drive.
On the Warriors' next drive, junior linebacker Justin Cole sacked Tyler Graunke for a 13-yard loss on third-and-11 from the Spartans' 25. Dan Kelly's 55-yard field-goal attempt for the Warriors was no good.
"The front seven (on defense) played a whole new game — with a whole new attitude — in the second half, they really made the difference for us," Flynn said. "They put pressure on them and (the secondary) was able to come up with some turnovers."
The Spartans had six sacks for 50 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Duke Ihenacho came up with the final turnover — an interception off Graunke — that came with 2:56 left. The play led to Strubeck's go-ahead 47-yard field goal.
"You know, we've gotten lit up for five, six touchdowns in the past (against Hawai'i), but (our team) believed in themselves and that's the most special thing about this win," Burns said.
Reach Kalani Takase at firstname.lastname@example.org.