NOTES/QUOTES/PLAYERS TO WATCH
-- Jaylon Redd, WR: While Redd might Oregon’s most improved player, he’s definitely got the trust of quarterback Justin Herbert. Redd leads the Ducks in catches (5) and touchdowns (3) and is averaging a whopping 23.4 yards per catch. Although smaller in stature, Redd shows great speed combined with balance that makes it difficult to get him off route. He’s a mismatch in the slot and going up against a San Jose State defense that surrenders 433 yards per game, Redd could be in line to add to his totals among the nation’s best.
-- Travis Dye, RB: Dye burst onto the scene last week, literally. He had four carries for 58 yards past week, but it was his 49-yard touchdown run that people remember most. Dye took a handoff in the third quarter and once through the line, showed tremendous burst to outrun the Portland State secondary. What made it more impressive was that two Viking defenders had the bead on Dye, but his burst was so effective, they didn’t lay a hand on them. Dye’s continued improvement could be a very nice option with conference pay coming up.
-- Kaulana Apelu, LB: Despite his diminutive size and injury-riddled history, Apelu has been a bright spot on Oregon’s defense to begin the year. Listed at 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, Apelu has been playing much bigger than his size. He’s done a good job of shedding off blockers to make plays while also holding his ground and forcing opponents to his teammates. His 13 tackles are tied for second on the team and he has 2.0 tackles for loss as well. With all the attention focused on fellow middle linebacker and preseason all-American Troy Dye, Apelu has done a good job of making a name for himself.
-- Jevon Holland, S: Just a freshman, Holland has drawn raves from coaches and players for his intelligence on the field and how quickly he’s picked up the playbook. It shows on the field as Holland is rarely out of place on the field and is now making plays. Standing 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, Holland provides a physical presence for the backend of Oregon’s defense and his ability to cover tight ends is imperative for the Ducks’ success.
Series History: 12-6 Oregon. The Ducks currently own a three-game win streak in the series with the last victory (and meeting) coming in 1998, which Oregon won 58-3. The quarterback for San Jose State during that game was Marcus Arroyo, Oregon’s current offensive coordinator.
Note to Quote: “I think he’s the best quarterback in the country — he’s got a great combination of arm talent and touch… he’s a big body who can see the field well and move,” San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan said of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. “He’s a fantastic player and he deserves all the appreciation and love that he’s getting.”
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Key Matchup:Oregon’s Pass Defense vs. San Jose State Pass Offense
For the second week in a row, Oregon’s pass defense will have a tall order to defend, literally. After dealing with Portland State tight end Charlie Taumoepeau last week, the Ducks now get to face San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver, one of the better plays in the nation at his position.
"He's a really good player… he's a big target with a big catch radius," Cristobal said. “The tight end is by far one of their best players — he presents a challenge to us, one our guys are looking forward to responding to."
Oliver is the nation’s leader in total catches and yards for a tight end, totaling 13 receptions for 137 yards. Listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Oliver is a legit NFL prospect who has the potential to take over a game.
That could be trouble for Oregon after the Ducks struggled defending Taumoepeau last week. He finished the game with five catches for 125 yards and two scores. The Ducks didn’t have the size or physicality to truly matchup with Taumoepeau, and that could spell trouble when Oliver comes to town.
The Ducks must find a way to defend Oliver and keep him from going off and fueling the Spartans offense.
Safety Jevon Holland did a good job when he played last week against Portland State and listed at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, he’s the most physically imposing cornerback Oregon has. Another option is linebacker Lamar Winston Jr., figuring out if he’s comfortable in pass coverage and running with Oliver.
After failing to defend Taumoepeau last week, Oregon must find a way to slow down Oliver in the passing game this week. As of right now, defending tight ends appears to be the Ducks’ weakest link in the pass defense and with Stanford coming to town next week, it won’t get any easier.
Apart from Oliver, the Spartans have wide receiver Bailey Gaither. Gaither, who has eight catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns on the year, is a very nice compliment to Oliver when he draws double-teams.
Combined, these two could give Oregon fits on the defensive side of the ball and make this game a lot closer than it should be.