Oregon’s defense needed to make a stop.
With the score 35-12 Oregon and the fourth quarter just underway, San Jose State’s Thai Cottrell returned an Oregon kickoff 96 yards to the Ducks’ 4-yard line. Four plays and a false start later, the Spartans chipped a 25-yard field goal. Mission accomplished.
“We just came together as a defense and said we need to get a stop,” outside linebacker Justin Hollins said. “It doesn’t matter where they get the ball, we just gotta get a stop. We always try to put our feet down and play Oregon defense.”
Oregon’s defense completed the job at hand against San Jose State, but allowed the Spartans 296 total yards on offense in the Ducks’ 35-22 win. With a top-10 opponent in the form of No. 9 Stanford up next for the No. 20 Ducks, Saturday’s performance against the Spartans did not meet the mark, but there were still plenty of positives.
“They did a heckuva job,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “I know they hit some big plays but I think as an offense, we’ve got to keep our defense off the field a little bit more.”
There were some big performers on defense for Oregon, one of them being Hollins, who finished the game with six solo tackles, one sack and an interception. Hollins said it was just “one of those days” where things were going right for him.
“The dude finally got a pick, he bobbled it here and there,” inside linebacker Troy Dye said. “If he dropped it, I would’ve got on him.”
The Ducks had two interceptions, the other by freshman safety Jevon Holland, who reacted well to San Jose State quarterback Josh Love’s movement to get his first career pick.
On the ground, Oregon’s run defense was superb, holding the Spartans to 29 yards on 28 rush attempts.
But not all was well, though, for Oregon’s defense.
The Spartans managed to get big gains in the air, and when Oregon takes on Stanford next week, the deep threat of JJ Arcega-Whiteside, will present a danger down field.
“We just got to improve, we’ve got to eliminate some of those explosive plays,” Dye said. “That just comes from learning and watching film and mistakes. I think guys are really gonna improve on it because we’re gonna lock in this week and focus on the things we did bad this week.”
The biggest threat from Stanford is Heisman Trophy contender Bryce Love. The running back is what defenders see in their nightmares, and the Ducks will certainly be focused on containing him as much as possible.
With ESPN’s College GameDay in town next week, there’s national attention on Oregon, adding to the pressure, which will put the Oregon defense under a microscope as it attempts to halt the Bryce Love-led offense.
“For next week, I feel like we got a lot to learn,” Hollins said. “It’s a good ‘W,’ but you know we’re not satisfied with our performance so we just try to go to practice and put everything together, get more disciplined and get ready for Stanford.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow