Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said he walked into the locker room and asked his players, “Is anyone really fired up right now?”
His team responded, “No.”
No. 20 Oregon (3-0) was expected to sweep its nonconference schedule, but a 13-point final score difference against San Jose State (0-3) was not how Oregon wanted to lead into Pac-12 play.
In what was expected to be a blowout, Oregon’s inconsistent offense resulted in the team’s closest game of its nonconference schedule. The 35-22 win over San Jose State concluded the Ducks’ nonconference schedule Saturday afternoon.
“San Jose State is a great team,” Troy Dye said. “They were good up front, I mean, they had a really good team put together.”
The game started in typical, Oregon-dominant fashion. But, the Ducks were plagued with two three-and-outs in the second quarter and a turnover on downs in the third.
Oregon’s first-quarter was highlighted by a 66-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Herbert to tight end Jacob Breeland. Herbert ended the game going 16-for-34 for 309 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Yet, the Breeland touchdown pass, Herbert’s 10th this season, was Oregon’s only completed pass of the first quarter.
San Jose State seized on a sluggish Oregon offense and scored two field goals by halftime. With Oregon ahead 21-6 over the Spartans, Herbert completed only eight of his 18 passes in the first half.
“They just run a lot of movement on their defensive front, a lot of unique pressures,” center Jake Hanson said. “It wasn’t anything we weren’t expecting, we were just inconsistent at times. That’s why I think we ran the ball well at times, but at other times we were obviously inconsistent.”
The second half saw a refreshed Oregon offense with two additional touchdowns, including a 22-yard pass to Johnny Johnson III.
Redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell went for 85 yards on five carries and led the team in receiving yards, with 42 yards on 15 receptions.
Johnson and Cyrus Habibi-Likio led the team with two touchdowns each, making up four of Oregon’s total five of the game.
With backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister sidelined following a procedure on his knee, Oregon kept Herbert in until the final drive of the game, when they switched him out for Tyler Shough.
Oregon’s defense kept San Jose State from scoring a touchdown until the start of the third quarter on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Josh Love to tight end Josh Oliver.
“I think as an offense, we’ve got to keep our defense off the field a little bit more,” Cristobal said. “Those guys were out there for a lot of plays. They hit some big shots….Hats off to those guys and the coaches, they did a good job.
The Spartans used field goals to keep themselves afloat until scoring a second, and final, touchdown in the last four minutes of the game.
Oregon understands that it needs to amp-up in all categories within the next week in order to better prepare for its Pac-12 opener against No. 9 Stanford next Saturday.
“We’re just focused on Stanford and trying to get better,” Dye said. “Our goal is to take the Pac and win the Pac-12. So, it’s our goal to get out there and start off on a great foot and get it going.”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni