San Jose State played some bonus football last week at Wyoming, going four quarters plus one series in overtime before taking down the Cowboys 27-20. In that game it allowed 277 yards and for a third straight week not only held a team to fewer than 300 total yards but to a season low.
The Cowboys are not the most dynamic offensive team now; they went into and came out of that game ranked last in the Mountain West in total and scoring offense.
But a week earlier, the Spartans held UNLV to 221 yards when the Rebels were averaging 394.6, and before held Nevada to 256 yards when the Wolf Pack had been averaging 433.3.
Wyoming, UNLV and Nevada combined hit only 33 of 81 passes (40.1%) for 306 yards with two interceptions — just 3.8 yards per pass play.
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They combined for 97 carries and 455 rushing yards, 4.7 per play.
It is all part of a huge turnaround by the Spartans under first-year defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who won two Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinator in Denver in 1997 and 1998, but was wildly unsuccessful as coach at Syracuse going 1-10, 4-8, 2-10 and 3-9 from 2005-08 and didn't do much as defensive coordinator at Michigan or Texas.
In two years at Michigan the Wolverines ninth and last in the Big Ten in total defense; in one season at Texas, the Longhorns were sixth in the Big 12.
But compared to last year, the Spartans have allowed 146.3 fewer yards and 11.1 fewer points per game — and that includes one at No. 5 Auburn.
San Jose State last season gave up 459.3 yards and 35.1 points per game. Through six games this season, it has allowed only 313.0 yards and 24.0 points per game.
Hawaii and Air Force this season are on a similar track. The Rainbow Warriors have allowed 109.7 and the Falcons 93.9 fewer total yards per game than last season.
But San Jose State is on pace to put together a turnaround that no team in the conference can match dating to 2000.
Here is a look at the best jumps:
• 121.5 yards: San Diego State, 411.3 yards to 289.8 from 2002-03
• 114.3: Wyoming, 377.2 to 262.9 from 2005-06
• 98.5: Colorado State, 428.8 to 330.3 from 2005-06
• 98.4: Air Force, 452.7 to 354.3 from 2001-02
• 78.8: San Diego State, 460.8 to 382.0 from 2008-09.
THIRD AND SHORT
• Fresno State has 15 explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards in its four Mountain West Conference games. The Air Force, with its triple-option offense, has 10 ... and has attempted 57 fewer passes.
• Wyoming wideout Dominic Rufran tied Boise State's Matt Miller at the top of the list of consecutive games with at least one catch at 44, the longest active streaks in the nation. Miller won't be adding to his total. He is out for the season after ankle surgery. And Rufran almost didn't make it there — he did not make his first reception until only 17 seconds remained in regulation.
• San Diego State quarterback Quinn Kaehler (shoulder) is closer to full health and at 3-1 the Aztecs are leading the West Division. Kaehler completed 13 of 24 passes for 174 yards in a 20-10 victory over Hawaii, his first start since Sept. 27. San Diego State completed 14 passes for 157 yards in the two games he didn't start.
• Colorado State packed 32,546 into Hughes Stadium for a 16-13 homecoming victory over Utah State, its first sellout since a 2004 game against Wyoming.
• Coach Rocky Long on the Aztecs' position in the standings at the halfway mark: "Obviously, we wish we would have won every game. But the way I read it, we're on top of the Western Division of the Mountain West Conference. That's a whole lot better than anybody else in the Western Division of the Mountain West Conference."
• Nevada trailed BYU 28-13 at halftime, but scored 29 consecutive points -- including 22 in the fourth quarter -- to take down the Cougars. The Wolf Pack won despite giving up 38 first downs, the most they have allowed going back through 2000. They had allowed more than 30 to an FBS opponent eight times in there, going 0-8. BYU racked up 601 yards.
• State and Boise State (10), Utah State and Colorado State (9), Hawaii and San Diego State (3) and New Mexico and Air Force (3) combined to score in the final quarters of their games.
• Note to Fresno State athletic department: The Wolf Pack plays at Hawaii this week and because of the travel demands is leaving Reno on Thursday instead of Friday.
Colorado State's Rashard Higgins caught 10 passes for 187 yards in the victory over Utah State, becoming the first receiver in the bowl subdivision since Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech) in 2007 to have as many as 175 receiving yards in three consecutive games.
A breakdown of the receivers' big games:
• six receptions for 178 yards and four touchdowns in 42-17 victory over Tulsa.
• 10 for 192 yards and two TDs in 31-24 victory at Nevada.
• 10 for 187 yards in 16-13 victory over Utah State.
26 for 557 yards and six TDs; 185.7 ypg and 21.4 ypc.
• 15 for 188 yards and two touchdowns in 45-31 victory over Texas-El Paso.
• 11 for 244 yards and three TDs in 59-24 victory at Rice.
• 14 for 237 yards and three touchdowns in 49-45 loss at Oklahoma State.
40 for 669 yards and eight TDs; 223 ypg and 16.7 ypc.