By Ernie Gonzalez:
The San Jose State-Fresno State rivalry isn’t on the same level as an Ohio State-Michigan or a USC-UCLA clash, but for the players, the results of these games define their legacy as a Spartan.
To Spartans, it’s more than just a game. It’s self-pride. It’s bragging rights. It’s the Valley Trophy.
Twelve months of nervous excitement, tempered anticipation, played out in front of 18,000-plus on which shades of blue, white and gold clash with red and navy blue.
Surrounded by 4,000-watt LEDs, you look to your right and you see ‘Krazy George’ galvanizing his troops. You look to your left and there is a shoulder-to-shoulder student band circled by the glows of ‘Spartan Squad’ T-shirts.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but against Fresno it’s different,” said senior cornerback Andre Chachere.
Originally from Fresno, Chachere was tunneled to be a Bulldog, but in a last-second decision, chose San Jose State.
“Growing up, I can see the [Bulldog] stadium from my house,” Chachere said. “I get a lot of backlash from people back home. Every time I play them, it’s really personal.”
The first team All-Mountain West defensive back circles the Fresno game on his calendar each year because for him in particular, there always is a little more to play for against the ‘Dogs.
Next season, there will be a new alpha filling in for former Spartan defensive captain Christian Tago. Linebacker Frank Ginda proved to have Tago’s DNA and emerged as a star on last season for the Spartans after Tago’s knee injury early last season.
Ginda is from from Los Banos, which lies about halfway between San Jose and Fresno, but is heavily overwhelmed by Bulldog fans.
“In my town, everybody is a Fresno fan,” Ginda said. “No one really is a San Jose State fan.”
Probably the most interesting thing for Ginda, considering his numbers as a Spartan, is that he didn’t even know SJSU existed.
“I didn’t even know about San Jose State until I got here,” Ginda said.
As for the trophy, Ginda could care less. “It feels good to have the trophy and all but, at the end of the day, we still have to go out there and play.”
When it comes to an enemy, it’s not just Fresno State, at least for defensive back Maurice McKnight.
McKnight, from San Bernardino, marks not just the Fresno game on his calendar, but every Saturday from late August to early December.
“I think every game is a rivalry game for us,” McKnight said. “On paper, it’s Fresno, but we’re always going to be the underdog.”
Before McKnight was a Spartan, he originally committed to San Diego State back in 2013, but flipped his commitment and chose SJSU.
“I was there for a minute, but I decommitted and came here,” McKnight said.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, McKnight told Rivals.com that he switched because the Aztecs have him slotted as a safety and he wanted to play cornerback.
“Personally, I dream the night before about what I’m going to do in the game,” McKnight said. “And when it happens, I’m like oh yeah!”
Fresno State leads the all-time series at 40-37-3 thanks to a dreadful 1-14 stretch by SJSU from 1996-2010.
However, the Spartans have come away victorious four of the past five seasons and will look to keep the Valley Trophy in San Jose come early October.
On October 7, San Jose State football will host the Fresno State Bulldogs, as both squads will lace up for the 81st time, the first at newly named CEFCU Stadium.