LARAMIE, Wyo. — San Jose State has been one of the worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision going on three seasons now.
The Spartans have won just 21 percent of their games since 2016 with five victories over Mountain West foes during that time. SJSU went 2-11 a season ago and shared last place in the West Division with Hawaii. The Spartans are trying to avoid the cellar again this season with just one win through their first eight games.
But Wyoming isn’t paying a whole lot of attention to what SJSU looks like on paper.
The Cowboys (3-6, 1-4 MW) won’t be overlooking San Jose State when they play host to the Spartans (1-7, 1-3) on Saturday. Wyoming is going for its first winning streak of the season after ending a four-game losing streak against Colorado State last week. And the Cowboys, who have to win out in order to finish .500, will need it in order to keep their bowl hopes on life support.
“That’s what we’re doing, taking it one game at a time,” defensive tackle Ravontae Holt said. “Our ultimate goal is to win out and go to a bowl.”
A closer look shows a SJSU team that shouldn’t be taken lightly despite what the numbers indicate. The Spartans are losing league games by less than a touchdown on average. SJSU took Hawaii to five overtimes in a 44-41 loss and gave West Division contender San Diego State all it wanted in another three-point loss before breaking through with a 50-37 win over UNLV last week.
“There have been a couple games they’ve been really competitive in,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “I think they’ve had a couple of unfortunate lapses in certain games, but last week they played a complete game and really got after UNLV.”
Balance has been hard for SJSU’s offense to come by with the Spartans ranking last nationally in rushing (65.1 yards per game) and yards per carry (1.97). Quarterback Josh Love has been hit or miss for the MW’s seventh-best passing offense, completing 56.5 percent of his passes with 12 touchdown tosses and seven interceptions.
But Love has one of the biggest targets in the league in senior tight end Josh Oliver, who presents a matchup problem in the middle of the field for linebackers and safeties. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is averaging nearly 65 receiving yards per game and is seventh in the MW with 44 receptions — nearly double the number of any other SJSU pass-catcher.
“They’ve got a great tight end. Not a good tight end,” Bohl said. “Their tight end, Oliver, is outstanding, and they utilize him well.”
Wyoming will be without Youhanna Ghaifan for the second straight game as the junior defensive tackle continues to serve an indefinite suspension after being charged with a pair of misdemeanors following an incident at the team’s hotel last week. But the Cowboys still managed to pitch just their second first-half shutout of the season in a 34-21 win over Colorado State. Wyoming held the Rams to a season-low 20 rushing yards and has allowed just 274 yards on average the last two weeks.
Wyoming also has undergone an offensive awakening under quarterback Sean Chambers. The true freshman has accounted for more than half the Cowboys’ total yards and led nine scoring drives, including four straight at one point against CSU, since taking over the reins from Tyler Vander Waal six quarters ago.
But Wyoming knows as well as anybody how competitive SJSU can be regardless of the personnel on the field. The Spartans’ only conference win a season ago came against Wyoming in the teams’ regular-season finale. Wyoming has yet to beat SJSU under Bohl, whose first Cowboys team fell to the Spartans by a field goal in 2014.
Any thought about Air Force and New Mexico in the coming weeks can wait.
“Our focus is on doing whatever we’ve got to do to beat San Jose,” Bohl said.