In a rematch of the 1987 California Bowl, the Eastern Michigan University Eagles (9-4, 5-3 MAC) faced the San José State University Spartans (7-4, 5-3 MWC) at Albertsons Stadium for the 2022 Famous Potato Bowl in Boise, ID. The Eagles are now 2-0 against the Spartans after a trio of turnovers helped lift the team to the program’s second-ever bowl victory, 41-27. Winning much more handily this time, the teams' first meeting resulted in a narrow 30-27 victory for the Eagles in the 1987 California Bowl.
This bowl game marked Eastern Michigan’s fifth in the last seven years. Meanwhile, the Spartans came in hot on a 6-game unbeaten streak after besting Hawaii 27-14 on Nov. 26, 2022.
Starting the game on defense, EMU maintained their reputation as the most penalized team in the Midwest Athletic Conference with a face mask penalty on the kickoff. To answer, junior quarterback Chevan Cordeiro found wideout Elijah Cooks with a 37-yard dime for a 67-yard pass play. The rest of the drive was marred by penalties, ultimately ending with a negated offsides penalty on a 27-yard rushing touchdown for Cordeiro. Only 1:08 into the game, the Eagles found themselves down 0-7.
In his third start in a row, quarterback Taylor Powell and the offense were stunted to only 12 yards before a strip sack was recovered by SJSU at the EMU 26-yard line.
Despite having just a minute-long break, the defense held tough and ended San José State’s drive with a sack by defensive lineman Peyton Price. In a 46-yard field goal attempt, sophomore Taren Schive went wide right, leaving the Spartans’ lead to just seven points.
Starting from their own 29-yard line, the Eagles’ drive nearly ended in an interception by linebacker Kyle Harmon who could not hold onto it for completion. Though this did force a fourth down punt, giving SJSU the ball back at their own 45-yard line.
From here, San José State started with a 20-yard rush, which finally ended with a tackle from defensive back Quentavius Scandrett. The Spartans continued to drive down the field, landing at the nine-yard line for a second and goal attempt. On this attempt, a defensive pass interference call added to the tremendous effort by sophomore Justin Lockhart, making a one-handed, toe-tapping catch in the end zone.
Adding, even more, excitement, the extra point attempt by SJSU was blocked and returned by EMU junior defensive back Tristen Hines for a successful two-point conversion. With 9:06 left in the first quarter, the special teams gave the squad their first points of the day, 2-13.
The Eagles started from their own 26-yard line and proceeded to march down the field, largely helped by a 58-yard launch by Powell to Dylan Drummond, landing at the Spartans' 11-yard line. After a rushing play by senior Samson Evans, Powell nearly ran it in himself, stopping just short at the one-yard line.
With 4:09 left in the first quarter, Evans tried rushing for six again but was stuffed by sophomore linebacker Bryun Parham. On his next attempt, he had help with blocking from fellow running back Darius Boone Jr. and was successful this time, helping to cut SJSU’s lead to just 4 points, 9-13.
The Spartans first play of their subsequent drive was hurt by two back-to-back false start penalties on offensive lineman Malik Williams. On first and twenty, Cordeiro found Isaiah Hamilton with a 24-yard pass to get out of the hole. Only two plays later, defensive lineman Grant Trueman earned a face mask penalty that canceled out his 15-yard sack.
To begin the second quarter, SJSU relied heavily on Cordeiro to find themselves on the EMU one-yard line on fourth and goal. On the play, Price again came up with a crucial tackle to stop rushing Kairee Robinsons short at the four-yard line.
With offense taking over deep in their own territory, Eastern Michigan seemed to still be riding the momentum from the earlier two-point conversion. On third down, Powell was able to find Darius Lassiter with a 45-yard pass play to edge the Eagles just into Spartan's territory.
This drive saw the offense convert their own fourth down attempt after a five-yard rush from Evans moved the chains to the 37-yard line. Immediately after, Powell found Lassiter again with a 20-yard pass play to the SJSU 17-yard line.
On a crucial third down and seven, Powell then ran it himself to get first and goal. From here, the offense only needed two attempts to find the end zone, finally with a lofted pass from Powell to Lassiter. After a successful extra point by Jesús Gómez, EMU now led the Spartans, 16-13, with 6:44 left in the half. After starting from their own four-yard line, the Eagles’ drive marked the longest in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl history.
The Spartans' next drive was a short one, ending with an interception by Eagles linebacker Luke Cameron. Powell then immediately found wideout Hassan Beydoun for his first reception of the day, one that ultimately went to review for a targeting penalty after Tre White appeared to hit very close to Beydoun’s helmet. After no penalty was called, EMU found themselves at the SJSU 16-yard line.
Powell needed only hand it to Evans for a 13-yard rush that set up a first and goal and then again for a touchdown. Evans’ touchdown extended Eastern Michigan’s lead to 22-13 and moved him further up the school’s all-time record for most rushing touchdowns.
San José State only got three plays of offense in before running a lateral play that was intercepted in the end zone by defensive back Joshua Scott for a touchback.
With the offense taking over at the 35-yard line, Powell found wideout Tanner Knue and then Evans to get out of their own half. After a rushing loss of seven yards, Evans found himself just one yard short after a six-yard run. Going for it again on fourth down, the Eagles needed just one yard but instead found five on the successful attempt.
On the subsequent first down, Powell found Lassiter for the second time in the end zone and increased their lead to 30-13. This marked Lassiter's first career game with more than one touchdown. With 55 seconds remaining in the half, the score capped 30 unanswered points by EMU.
Despite a launch to the end zone by Cordeiro as time expired, junior Kempton Shine was able to break up the pass and round out the half in Eastern Michigan’s favor.
Starting the second half with the ball, the Eagles offense was held to a three-and-out before punting to the Spartan’s 25-yard line. For SJSU’s first play of the third-quarter offense, Cordeiro found Cooks on a 25-yard pass play to get out of their own territory. However, EMU nearly earned their third interception, almost Joshua Scott’s second, on a broken-up pass play on the following second down. The effort ultimately forced a punt from the offense, giving the Eagles the ball back on their own 20-yard line.
After only seven yards of offense, Eastern Michigan was then forced to punt after a three-and-out for the second time in a row. With 11:45 to go in the third quarter, San José State took over from their own 27-yard line.
The Eagles' defense did not relent either, proceeding to then hold the Spartans to a three and out themselves. This drive almost ended in an interception for EMU, after Scott was able to break up another pass, almost for the turnover.
Now with the ball at their own 47-yard line, the offense marched into SJSU territory with a 16-yard pass play from Powell to Knue. After finding only four more yards on the drive, the Eagles' offense was forced to settle for three with a 51-yard field goal from Gómez. Gómez's effort marked another Famous Idaho Potato Bowl record, with the longest-made field goal in its history.
Finally snapping EMU’s 33-point unanswered streak, SJSU needed only three minutes to get their first touchdown since the first quarter, 33-20. On the play, Cordeiro found senior wideout Nick Nash for a hard-fought catch in the end zone.
From their own 25-yard line, the Eastern Michigan offense was unable to gain any ground before again being forced to give the ball right back to San José State. However, the defense held strong after the Spartans went for it on fourth down at their own 44-yard line and were met by Price and defensive lineman Jose Ramirez for no gain.
With EMU now stepping up in SJSU territory, Powell found tight end Gunnar Oakes on a 19-yard pass play to keep the sticks moving. With barely a minute to go in the third quarter, running back Jaylon Jackson seemingly defied gravity & physics to spin and run for 31 yards into the end zone. After a successful two-point conversion, EMU now held a commanding 21-point lead over SJSU, 41-20.
To begin the fourth quarter, the Spartans' offense depended largely on Cordeiro as they struggled to get the rush game going. On a second down toss into the endzone, Scott again broke up the pass intended for Hamilton. Unfortunately, in the following play, Cordeiro was able to find Hamilton, this time for six. After a successful extra point, San José State reduced Eastern Michigan’s lead to 14 points, 41-27.
The Eagles continued to depend on the running game to wind down the clock, eventually bringing the offense to another first and goal opportunity. Except on third and goal, a bold passing call resulted in an interception by freshman defensive back Michael Dansby. With 4:46 left in the game, the Spartans now had the ball back at their own 25-yard line.
The offensive error did not appear to affect the defense, with Trueman notching a crucial tackle for loss on a third down. On San José State’s fourth down attempt of the game, Cordeiro found Cooks for a six-yard gain. At the 50-yard line, the following first down toss by Cordeiro was intercepted by fifth-year defensive back Russell Vaden IV to ice the game for Eastern Michigan.
Now with only 1:47 to go in the game, EMU took over at the SJSU 31-yard line. Leaving it to the rushing game, Powell needed only to give the ball to Evans to run out the clock and secure Eastern Michigan’s second-ever bowl game victory.
Rounding out the team’s schedule for the year, the offseason will not get underway with all eyes looking to whom will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. For the latest information on EMU football, tune in weekly to the Eastern Echo’s “TheBlockE Podcast” or visit EMUEagles.com