No. 20 Ducks get San Jose State tuneup before Pac-12 opener
It may not be easy given the mismatch. San Jose State is 0-2, with losses to FCS-level UC Davis and to Washington State. The Spartans rank 113th among FBS teams (out of 129) in total offense with an average of 315 yards game, and 125th in total defense, allowing 566.6 yards a game.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have a pair of wins over Bowling Green and Portland State and moved up in the rankings to No. 20 this week . Quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown nine touchdown passes and ranks sixth in the nation for passing efficiency (213.4) while the Ducks’ scoring offense is ranked fourth (60 per game).
On top of that, Oregon has won 22 straight nonconference matchups at Autzen Stadium. So it’s no surprise the Ducks are 41-point favorites.
It was inevitable that in previewing the game coach Mario Cristobal was asked if he anticipated his team being focused on Saturday with Pac-12 conference play on the horizon.
“Not only anticipate it. Expect it. Demand it. Demand it from each other,” he said. “It’s just our approach and it has to stay that way.”
San Jose State’s offense sputtered last weekend in a 31-0 loss to the Cougars, with only nine rushing yards on 23 carries. The Spartans had 109 total yards.
But one bright spot so far this season has been Josh Oliver, who leads the nation among tight ends with an average of 6.5 catches per game through the team’s first two games. He’s got 137 total receiving yards this season. And nine of his catches resulted in a first down.
Spartans coach Brent Brennan realizes the challenge.
“I would just like to see us play better across the board. I don’t think you can look at any one position and be like, ‘Wow, this group really played well and this group didn’t.’ We were stifled by Washington State’s personnel and their scheme,” Brennan said. “So we’re trying to keep it simple. Trying to give the guys stuff we think they can execute at a high level. Combine that with our tempo and some formation and hopefully give our quarterback a chance to see the field and deliver the football.”
CONNECTIONS: The two teams last met in 1998 with No. 22 Oregon winning 58-3. Current Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo started that game as a freshman quarterback for San Jose State. Fellow Ducks assistants Jim Mastro, Joe Salave’a and Donte Williams had stops at San Jose State during their careers.
MORE PRAISE FOR HERBERT: Last week, Portland State coach Bruce Barnum quipped “We got Herbert-ed” after the 62-14 loss to the Ducks. Herbert threw four touchdown passes against the Vikings, giving him 10 total TDs so far this season (nine via pass and one via run).
Brennan, who saw Herbert in person two years ago when he was as assistant at Oregon State, gave his take on Herbert in advance of Saturday’s game.
“I think he’s the best quarterback in the country, and I think I would have said that when I was at Oregon State two years ago and he was a freshman. He’s really got a great combination of arm talent and touch, he’s a big body who sees the field well and can move,” Brennan said. “He’s a fantastic player and he deserves all the appreciation and love he’s getting.”
SPARTAN SPIRIT: “I think the kids are showing that they want to play. I believe in this football team. I love these kids. They’re giving us everything they’ve got. We’ve got to make sure we put them in the right position to make plays,” Brennan said.
UP NEXT: Even if the Ducks say they aren’t looking ahead, the reality is that next week’s opponent is Stanford, which jumped to No. 9 in the rankings following last weekend’s 17-3 victory at home over USC. This weekend, the Cardinal face UC Davis, which beat the Spartans in the opener for both teams. Bryce Love is not playing against the Aggies because of an unspecified injury, leaving some to speculate he’s resting for the Oregon game next weekend at Autzen.