Oregon's performance not all that ducky
EUGENE — Now the real season and challenge starts for Oregon, and the 20th-ranked Ducks are not exactly going into Pac-12 play with momentum after their weak nonleague schedule.
Although never trailing on Saturday, the Ducks had to play their starters nearly the entire way against San Jose State, and won only 35-22 before 50,049 fans at Autzen Stadium.
Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns — giving him 12 in three games — on 16-of-34 passing. But he threw two interceptions, and the Ducks ran for only 134 yards on 49 carries (2.7 per, with a long of nine yards). Two touchdowns came on short fields, and UO scored another TD on a fourth-and-9 pass.
The 0-3 Spartans, who lost to an FCS team (UC Davis) and Washington State, 31-0, scored five times against the Ducks with three field goals and two touchdowns. Oregon held San Jose State to 29 net yards rushing on 28 carries, registered four sacks and forced the Spartans into 4 of 16 on third-down conversions. But San Jose State quarterbacks went 20 of 41 for 267 yards, with pass plays of 52, 38 and 31 yards.
And, Oregon had some key penalties.
It wasn't the convincing win the Ducks had hoped for heading into Pac-12 play and after scoring 120 combined points in routs of Bowling Green and Portland State.
It's not just any Pac-12 team coming to Eugene next week, either. It's Stanford, 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, a game to be broadcast on ABC. The ESPN College GameDay crew also will be in Eugene. The Cardinal have dominated the Ducks in the past two years, outscoring them 101-34.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal entered the locker room after Saturday's game and asked players, "Anybody fired up?" Nobody responded. "They know they can do better," he said.
"We played some inconsistent football," Cristobal added. "Just not content, not satisfied."
San Jose State was an interesting opponent, given that nine of its 11 coaches have Oregon State connections. Head coach Brent Brennan coached receivers at OSU from 2011-16. Defensive coordinator Derrick Odum coached Beaver defensive backs the past two seasons; offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven coached the OSU offense in 2017. Joe Seumalo coached the Beaver defensive line from 2006-14, and does the same with San Jose State.
The Spartans had a decent defense, especially a solid defensive line led by Seumalo.
But, as Herbert said, "we didn't play the type of football we would have liked."
The Ducks' run game was poor, although Cyrus Habibi-Likio had two carries for two TDs (3 and 1 yards).
"We have to do a better job of knocking back the line of scrimmage," said Cristobal, who has put a lot of emphasis on offensive line play in the Ducks' recipe for success. "We didn't play up to our standard in the run game."
Still, the Ducks led 14-0 after the first quarter.
Habibi-Likio's first TD finished a 23-yard possession after a Jevon Holland interception.
After a Spartan punt, the Ducks went 80 yards on five plays and scored on Herbert's 66-yard TD pass to tight end Jacob Breeland.
The Spartans had a couple second-quarter field goals, and they blocked a Zach Emerson field-goal attempt.
Herbert hit Johnny Johnson for a 39-yard TD reception.
But in the waning seconds of the first half, Herbert threw an interception in the end zone.
The Ducks went ahead 28-6 early in the third quarter after Ugo Amadi's 57-yard punt return. The Ducks' offense had to only go 22 yards; Habibi-Likio scored his second TD.
After a failed Herbert fourth-down pass, San Jose State struck for a deep pass and then scored on a 7-yard TD throw from Josh Love to Josh Oliver.
It took a fourth-and-9 play for Oregon to score its next TD, Herbert to Johnson for 22 yards.
The Ducks promptly gave up a 96-yard kickoff return that resulted in a San Jose State field goal. It was a great goal-line stand, though. Oregon's Tony Brooks-James appeared to score on an ensuing 95-yard kickoff return, but a holding penalty negated the score. Then Herbert threw his second interception.
The Spartans scored with 4:03 left on Malik Roberson's 1-yard TD run, after two big pass plays.
So, it was a 13-point victory when the Ducks had been favored by about six touchdowns.
"We've got to make sure we do a good job executing," Cristobal said. "The defense had some nice stands. They did a heck of a job against the run. As an offense, we've got to keep the defense off the field more."
CJ Verdell had a nice game with five catches for 85 yards and 42 net yards on 14 rushes for Oregon. Brooks-James had 39 yards on 10 carries. Defensively, Justin Hollins had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss, an interception and a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
It was a win, but not one worth celebrating, the Ducks said.
"We feel like we have more in the tank," defensive end Jalen Jelks said. "Next week will be a big test. Got to stay disciplined and play Oregon football."
"Next week — we've got a lot to learn," Hollins said.
The Cardinal (3-0) have throughly beaten the Ducks the past two years.
The defense feels confident, linebacker Troy Dye said. He'll be tasked with helping stop star Cardinal running back Bryce Love. "We're really just focused on Stanford and playing a good game," he said. "We've got to improve and eliminate explosion plays."
The offensive line feels confident it'll get back to the "standard" with the run game, center Jake Hanson said. The Cardinal have given up 23 points in three games.
"We're very confident we can handle Stanford," Hanson said.
SAN JOSE STATE 0 6 6 10 — 22
OREGON 14 7 7 7 — 35
OREGON — Cyrus Habibi-Likio 3 run (Zach Emerson kick), 11:18
OREGON — Jacob Breeland 66 pass from Justin Herbert (Emerson kick), 7:10
SJS — Bryce Crawford 31 FG, 10:56
SJS — Crawford 28 FG, 2:58
OREGON — Johnny Johnson III 39 pass from Herbert (Emerson kick), 2:28
OREGON — Habibi-Likio 1 run (Emerson kick), 9:46
SJS — Josh Oliver 7 pass from Josh Love (pass failed), 5:00
OREGON — Johnson III 22 pass from Herbert (Emerson kick), 14:49
SJS — Crawford 25 FG, 13:42
SJS — Malik Roberson 1 run (Crawford kick), 4:03
Att. — 50,049