SAN JOSE, Calif. — Opening the season against two Top-20 ranked teams from the Pac-12 didn’t leave San Jose State much margin for error.
Sunday, on a nationally televised game in front of one of the largest home crowds in SJSU history, No. 18 Oregon State took full advance and pinned the Spartans with a 42-17 loss.
Eight days after a competitive first half at No. 6 USC in an eventual 56-28 loss, the Spartans (0-2) were dominated in all phases by Oregon State before a sellout crowd of 20,337, the largest since November 30, 2013 against Fresno State and the 25th biggest crowd in school history.
There was no stopping the Beavers, who led by as many as 32 points, and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, the Clemson transfer who threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more. The Spartans’ offense didn’t get into the end zone until the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
“When you’re playing a team that is consistently good and fundamentally sound as Oregon State, you have to match that,” said SJSU head coach Brent Brennan. “We made some mistakes today on both sides of the ball. They’re like Iceman from Top Gun. No mistakes”
Now the Spartans have a short week to prepare for FCS opponent Cal Poly at CEFCU Stadium on Saturday.
Here’s what we learned from San Jose State’s home opener, it’s first sellout since August 23, 2003 against Grambling State.
Still can’t stop the run
The Beavers’ point of attack was methodical. They were going to run the ball until they got stopped, and the Spartans had no answer.
Oregon State averaged 5.6 yards per carry and had 197 total yards rushing. The Beavers handed the ball off to starting running back Damien Martinez 18 times which resulted in 145 yards rushing.
The Spartans struggled in their last game against USC, giving up 160 yards rushing on 4.6 yards per carry. SJSU recorded only three tackles for a loss.
“They were just more physical, they’re stronger and they battled,” said SJSU safety Tre Jenkins.
Key injuries to playmakers
The injury bug has hit the Spartans hard to start the season.
SJSU was without All-Conference receiver Justin Lockhart for the second straight game and starting running back Kairee Robinson was also in street clothes on Sunday.
Brennan declined to address the status of each player, but suggested injuries were the reasons the offensive stars were sidelined.
The absences of Lockhart and Robinson contributed to quarterback Chevan Corderio struggling to find a playmaker with wide receiver Nick Nash, who was a breakout star against USC with three TD catches, tightly covered by the Beavers secondary on each play. Cordeiro finished with just 143 passing yards — his lowest total since he was a sophomore at Hawaii in 2020.
“Justin’s a helluva good player and missing him has been a big miss,” Cordeiro said.
Starting cornerback and Virginia Tech transfer DJ Harvey went down in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a leg injury. Harvey needed help coming off the field and his status for Cal Poly is unknown.
The Spartans had chances to shift the momentum of the game, but couldn’t capitalize.
With the Spartans down 7-0 in the second quarter, Cordeiro scrambled and picked up 21 yards to get to the Oregon State 10-yard line. But a block in the back penalty by SJSU tight end Dominick Mazotti wiped out most of the big gain.
A few plays later, a false start penalty on tackle Fernando Carmona moved the Spartans back to the 23-yard line. The Spartans had to settle for a field goal to make the score 7-3. They never got closer, trailing 21-3 at halftime.
“I think it was really important,” Nash said about getting a touchdown instead of a field goal. “A touchdown would have been a lot more momentum and a lot more confidence for our defense and offense.”
Need more playmakers
With the injuries to Robinson, Lockhart and potentially Harvey, the Spartans are going to need more players to step up on both sides of the ball.
Despite being heavily covered, Nash was the only Spartan who was consistent in getting separation and catching passes on the outside. He had seven receptions for 31 yards. Charles Ross and Malikhi Miller – the Spartans’ No. 2 and No. 3 receivers – combined for four catches for 31 yards.
Quali Conley took on the majority of the carries in the backfield, but only rushed for 34 yards on 11 attempts.
The Spartans managed just 279 yards of offense after gaining 396 yards against USC.
An encouraging sign for SJSU however was tight end Sam Olson. Olson caught 6 passes for 60 yards and scored a touchdown after Cordeiro fumbled a rush in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Sam (Olson) did some really good stuff,” Brennan said. “That’s exciting because we’ve been kind of waiting for Sam to return to form.”
Another duel with a prime time quarterback
It’s been a whirlwind of teams and quarterbacks the past two weeks for SJSU. The Spartans faced Caleb Williams, USC’s reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and then Uiagalelei, who was Trevor Lawrence’s successor at Clemson and went 21-6 as a stater. The duo combined to carve up the Spartans for 517 yards and nine touchdowns through the air.
They will not get a break when they face Cal Poly. The Mustangs defeated the University of San Diego in their first game and are led by former University of Washington five-star quarterback Sam Huard who threw for 364 yards and a touchdown against the Toreros.
Cal Poly was Brennan’s first win as a head coach back in 2017, beating the Mustangs 34-13 in his second game ever as SJSU head coach.
Even with Cal Poly being an FCS school, the Spartans are not taking the Mustangs lightly.
“We know not to play down to them,” Cordeiro said. “Football comes with upsets. It almost happened last year with Portland State, it was a close game. We can’t take Cal Poly lightly.”