SJSU head coach Brent Brennan’s Spartans play host to No. 16 Oregon State on Sunday as part of CBS doubleheader
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The football team at San Jose State will be scrutinized more than usual for its home opener.
A week after trailing No. 6 USC by a touchdown at halftime in a 56-28 loss in Los Angeles, the Spartans will face another ranked opponent in No. 16 Oregon State. If that isn’t enough, the game will be broadcast on CBS as part of a rare college football Sunday doubleheader, marking San Jose State’s first regular-season game on the prestigious network in four decades.
SJSU head coach Brent Brennan described it as an additional challenge for his young team.
“The difficulty is that you’re playing two really good teams right off the bat, and you don’t know who you are as a football team yet,” Brennan explained. “We’re still getting new players acclimated and integrated into the scheme.” We’re using some very young players as well as some guys in various positions.”
“I also think it’s a fantastic opportunity… This group that will be arriving here this weekend is exceptional in all three phases. As a result, this is yet another significant challenge for us.”
Here are some key factors in San Jose State’s upset of the Beavers, who are a 16.5-point favorite. The game begins at 12:30 p.m. at CEFCU Stadium.
Victory in the trenches
The Spartans are facing a very different opponent than the high-powered offense they faced against USC.
Oregon State is known for its strong offensive line play and ability to win the possession battle. According to Pro Football Focus, the Beavers had the highest run-blocking grade and the third-highest overall grade among college football offensive lines last season.
Last season, Oregon State rushed for 196.5 yards per game, thanks in part to tackles Taliese Fuaga (6-foot-6, 333 pounds) and Joshua Gray (6-foot-4, 304 pounds). Damien Martinez, a sophomore running back, returns for the Beavers after rushing for 982 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
The Spartans must not be worn down by the Beavers if they are to win this game. Last week, SJSU allowed 160 rushing yards and three touchdowns to a USC team with a mediocre offensive line and none of the bruising running backs that Oregon State has.
Stopping the run also means that Beavers quarterback DJ Uiagalelei’s play action attack will be less effective. Uiagalelei, a Clemson transfer, is one of the most talented quarterbacks Brennan has had to coach against, so taking away one of Oregon State’s biggest strengths will undoubtedly help.
Get the game changers involved.
In the first game, SJSU quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and wide receiver Nick Nash combined for 89 yards and three touchdowns. The Spartans could use another strong showing from the duo.
Justin Lockhart, an All-Mountain West preseason selection, did not practice this week after missing the game against USC. He is unlikely to play against the Beavers.
In Lockhart’s absence, Nash stepped in as the No. 1 receiver and was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. One of his touchdown catches was the No. 2 play on SportsCenter that night.
Oregon State’s stingy secondary was decimated by graduation and the NFL draft, allowing the Spartans to target the Beavers through the air.
The ability of SJSU to run the ball against USC was encouraging. Quali Conley, a transfer from Utah Tech, rushed for 108 yards on six attempts, including a 57-yard run up the middle.
“I think we just need to keep giving the ball to our playmakers and block,” SJSU offensive lineman Jaime Navarro said. “If we do that and pay attention to detail, I think we’ll have a great game.”
Taking advantage of opportunities
When the Spartans have a chance to score, they must take advantage of it. Last season, Oregon State had the best red zone defense, with opponents scoring on 64% of its red zone trips.
Aggressive play calling inside the 25-yard line could backfire, particularly against a team that ranked in the top 25 in average time of possession last season. SJSU will have a favorable home crowd, so taking a field goal in enemy territory wouldn’t be the worst choice in this game.
Faces you’ve seen before
The game on Sunday will have some crossover appeal for both fan bases.
Brennan was the wide receivers coach at Oregon State before taking over as head coach at San Jose State in 2017. He brought five coaches from his Corvallis staff to his San Jose staff, including offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven and defensive coordinator Derrick Odum.
Brennan wore the orange and black the last time the Spartans faced the Beavers in 2015, assisting Oregon State to a 35-21 victory in Corvallis.
Current Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren was the offensive coordinator in San Jose under then-head coach Mike MacIntyre in 2012.
“It’s amazing how much crossover there is with the staff and all of the people,” Brennan said.
During practice this week, the SJSU coaching staff seemed more excited for this game. Some coaches refused to speak to the media about Oregon State, while others expressed excitement about the challenge that this Oregon State team presented.
According to Oregon Live, the Spartans will not face Oregon State’s four-star defensive lineman, Jacob Schuster. Schuster is a Minnesota transfer who was brought in after the transfer portal closed for immediate eligibility. According to the report, the Beavers requested a waiver to get Schuster on the field this season, but he will have to wait until next season.
— Sunday’s game will be SJSU’s first nationally televised regular-season game on CBS since 1982. The Spartans’ last nationally televised regular-season game on any network was a 30-23 loss to Nevada on ABC in 2005.