August 28, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; North Dakota defensive back Alex Tillman (20) fumbles the football after being tackled by San Jose State Spartans safety Khalil Rashaad-Brown (30) on a punt return during the second quarter at Spartan Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A six-minute fireworks display followed San Jose State's 42-10 win over the University of North Dakota on Thursday night, a light show that followed the Spartans lighting up their opponent earlier on the football field.
The Bubba Schweigert era at UND began against an opponent that gained control early and never let up before more than 10,000 fans at Spartan Stadium on a beautiful California evening.
Schweigert said plenty of work remains in his attempt to rebuild the program, but there is no reason for panic after one game.
"There is so much we need to do to get better," said Schweigert. "But we're going to stick with this plan of taking it one day at a time. We aren't one bit concerned with the scoreboard. That may seem odd. But we're more concerned about who we are and how we play, whether it's the first quarter, second quarter or fourth quarter.
"We're going to be a team that gets better, I really believe that. We had 27 guys on this trip that had never traveled to a UND football game and 10 were true freshmen.
"If they stay the course and keep listening, they'll get better."
San Jose State scored on its first three possessions, building a 21-3 halftime lead. Fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Jurich, making his first career start, led the way as he passed for three touchdowns and finished with 250 passing yards, completing 22 of 25.
For UND, the highlights were few. At times, UND defenders were in position to make plays but didn't. UND, however, didn't leave the locker room dejected.
"A tough opener," said sophomore quarterback Joe Mollberg, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 126 yards. "We have to do things right to compete in any game. That's why we play 12 games, right? But I liked our energy, even at the end of the game. We just have to keep working."
San Jose State finished with 406 yards of offense, compared to UND's 244. The Spartans finished with 23 first downs, to UND's 12, and their offense was balanced, evidenced by 150 yards on the ground.
The Spartans went up 7-0 on Jurich's 15-yard scoring pass to Tyler Winston. UND safety Cole Reyes was in position to make the interception in the corner of the end zone, but the ball made it to Winston.
Later in the first half, transfer cornerback Alex Tillman - the busiest player of the game - nearly came up with a pick-6. Instead, Jurich hit Winston for 15 yards on a third-and-5. Later, he threw a 3-yard TD pass to Steve Smith for a 21-0 lead.
"It was a tough loss," said UND linebacker Will Ratelle, who led UND with nine tackled. "We played hard. But if you make just one mistake, it can bite you in the butt."
There were a few highlights for UND.
True freshman kicker Reid Taubenheim, who struggled early in fall camp, drilled a 42-yard field goal late in the first half.
His kick was set up by Mollberg's 51-yard pass to redshirt freshman Kyle Ruhe.
But San Jose, a 6-6 team a year ago, had it working on the ground and in the air. Thomas Tucker, taking over for suspended running back Jarod Lawson, finished with 86 yards on 20 carries. Winston caught 10 passes for 96 yards and Jurich was sharp in the three-plus quarters he played.
UND scored on a 7-yard Jer Garman run with 1:17 to play, capping a 55-yard drive.
UND was led on the ground by transfer Cedric Simmons, who began his career at San Jose State. Simmons rushed for 54 yards on 13 attempts.
UND headed home, knowing a lot of work remains.
"We'll build on the good and address the things we need to do to get better," said Schweigert.