SAN JOSE -- Ron Caragher has preached the importance of a balanced offense since the day he was hired as San Jose State's coach.
It was the same refrain former coach Mike MacIntyre sang most of last season before it became clear a throw-first mentality suited the team best.
Caragher never abandoned the balance approach though, and the Spartans are finally reaping the rewards. After running for a season-high 312 yards in Saturday's win over UNLV, SJSU is averaging 148.8 rushing yards per game.
That total ranks only 11th in the Mountain West Conference, but the Spartans (5-3, 4-1) finally are closing the gap after averaging 81.3 on the ground the first four games.
"I've always been a believer to not be one-dimensional, because whether it's inclement weather or whether you're not in sync, you have the ability to run the ball as well," Caragher said.
Personnel has been a major reason for the improvement. Since joining the starting lineup against Hawaii on Oct. 5, Jarrod Lawson is averaging 125.5 yards per game, which puts him on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards this season. The trio of Lawson, Thomas Tucker and Tim Crawley combined for 308 yards against UNLV, the most ever by a group of SJSU freshmen.
Even after an off game by David Fales against the Rebels, it's a guarantee that future opponents -- including San Diego State on Saturday night -- will focus heavily on the Spartans quarterback.
But now SJSU has shown it can win a game primarily on the ground. The Spartans gained nearly 65 percent of their yardage against UNLV through the running game and are averaging 216.3 yards per game over their past four -- good for sixth in the conference over that period. That should give opponents a lot more to think about.
"David's history will make teams want to go in and stop the passing game. I know UNLV took that approach," Caragher said. "But in turn, that did help the running game, and I'm just glad our guys could seize it. Down the road, people will see that, and it just makes people prepare for more."
"I think it was a good move," Caragher said. "The advantage of being on the field is the chemistry, the leadership, and you're down amongst the players during those timeouts and during those breaks to rally the guys."
If it had been picked up on ESPN or ESPN2, the Spartans and Wolf Pack each would have received a $500,000 bonus per the Mountain West television contract. But ESPNU broadcasts do not come with bonus money.
The late start adds a little extra difficulty to the short week that follows. The Spartans play Navy the following Friday and probably won't board their bus home from Reno until at least midnight.
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San Diego State (4-4, 3-1 Mountain West) at San Jose State (5-3, 4-1), 7:30 p.m. CBSSN