On a Saturday afternoon at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, San Jose State played a football game. Given the circumstances – back-to-back canceled games, the malleable schedule, their nomadic status – playing was a return to normalcy for the Spartans.
Winning has become normal, too.
San Jose State defeated Hawaii 35-24, improving to 5-0 for the first time since 1939 and setting themselves up to play in the Mountain West championship game in two weeks. The teams with the two-best winning percentages advance. San Jose State is No. 1 right now.
Saturday, the Spartans laid the foundation for their wire-to-wire victory in the first quarter, opening the game about as perfect as possible.
On their first three offensive possessions, they found the end zone. Nick Starkel connected with Isaiah Holiness in the flat for a two-yard touchdown, then Tyler Nevens exploded for touchdown runs of 72 and 10 yards.
On the Spartans’ first three defensive possessions, they forced three consecutive three-and-outs. The Rainbow Warriors were held to 14 yards on those drives, and Chevan Cordeiro didn’t complete any of his three pass attempts. Before 10 minutes had been played, San Jose State led 21-0.
Nevens and Kairee Robinson both had career-nights and did the heavy lifting for San Jose State’s offense, combining for 263 of the team’s 288 rushing yards.
Nevens had career-high 152 rushing yards along with two touchdowns, while Robinson had a career-high 143 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown of his own.
By halftime, the Spartans had 214 rushing yards, eclipsing their previous 2020 single-game high of 176 yards against UNLV on Nov. 14, the last time San Jose State played.
With Nevens and Robinson running the ball so well, quarterbacks Starkel and Nick Nash took a rare backseat in the offense.
Starkel completed 11 of 23 passes for 167 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and Nash rushed for just 20 yards.
Tre Walker left his imprint on the game with his first touchdown reception since Halloween, taking a short pass in the flat 50 yards to the end zone.
Cornerback Kenyon Reed made his first start with the Spartans, making an impact on defense and special teams. In addition to five tackles and helping break up several passes, Reed had two returns for 29 yards.
San Jose State’s win is all the more impressive considering what this program has had to navigate.
The team’s previous two games on the schedule, Fresno State and Boise State, were canceled after those programs experienced coronavirus issues.
On top of losing its nationally-televised game against Boise State last week, San Jose State could no longer practice or play in San Jose after Santa Clara County announced a ban on contact sports through at least Dec. 21.
The game Saturday against Hawaii was supposed to be in San Jose but was moved to Honolulu last week after the new county restrictions.
Suddenly nomads, these Spartans keep doing what they seem to do best: