EUGENE — Oregon’s offense sputtered through its 35-22 victory against San Jose State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
The defense, however, drew rave reviews for a performance that saw it allow a few big plays but little else.
“We had some really, really nice moments,” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, pointing specifically to a red zone stand in the fourth quarter when the Spartans returned a kickoff to the Ducks’ 4-yard line but had to settle for a field goal.
Oregon held San Jose State to 296 yards of offense, including just 29 yards rushing.
Leading the way for the Ducks was senior outside linebacker Justin Hollins, who had eight tackles, a sacks, an interception and forced a fumble.
“A great performance by him, very disruptive,” Cristobal said. “He was in the backfield, affecting the quarterback, disrupting the run game, always just causing some type of chaos.”
Hollins’ interception was the second of his career. His sack was his team-leading third of the season.
“It was one of those days where it was going right for me,” Hollins said. “I was just doing whatever I can to help the defense, help the team get a win.”
FLAGS FLY: Oregon ranked first in the Pac-12 and 15th nationally with just eight penalties in its first two games. The Ducks nearly doubled that total on Saturday with six for 59 yards.
Included among those penalties was a roughing the passer call against defensive end Austin Faoliu that negated an interception by Jevon Holland in the third quarter, and a holding call against safety Nick Pickett on a kickoff return for a touchdown by Tony Brooks-James in the fourth quarter.
Last year the Ducks were the most penalized team in the nation with an average of 9.4 penalties per game for an average of 88.3 yards per game.
QUARTERBACK IDLE: Sophomore backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister missed the game with a knee injury. He watched the game on crutches on the sideline.
“He had a very minor procedure on his knee this week,” Cristobal said after the game. “He should be back within two weeks.”
Burmeister saw mop-up duty during the first two games, completing 4-of-8 passes for 27 yards. Third-string true freshman Tyler Shough backed up Herbert against the Spartans and played on the Ducks’ final drive.
In other injury news, Cristobal said kicker Adam Stack will return for the Stanford game after missing the first three games. Sophomore Zach Emerson has been starting in his place and has gone 21-for-22 on PATs.
He missed his first field-goal attempt of the season on Saturday when his 42-yard attempt was blocked.
LUCKY 13: When tight end Jacob Breland caught a pass from Herbert and took it 66 yards for the score in the first quarter, he became Oregon’s 13th different player to score a touchdown this season.
Seven of those players have been on the receiving end of touchdown pass from Herbert, another score came off an interception by safety Ugo Amadi against Bowling Green, and four other players have scored a rushing TD.
Running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio and receiver Johnny Johnson III are tied for the team lead with four touchdowns each. Both scored twice against San Jose State.
GAMEDAY COMING: ESPN’s College GameDay is coming to Eugene next week for the Pac-12 opener between Oregon and Stanford. It will be the 10th time the show has broadcast live from Eugene, and the first since 2014, when Michigan State was in town to face the Marcus Mariota-led Ducks.
“We’re just really focused on Stanford and playing a great game,” Oregon linebacker Troy Dye said. “It’s the first Pac-12 game at home. We’re not really worried about the outside media, GameDay, or whatever. We’re just focused on Stanford and trying to get better.”
College GameDay was a mainstay in Eugene during the Chip Kelly years, as the Ducks hosted the show at least once every season between
Herbert, who grew up in Eugene, never went to Autzen Stadium to watch the show live, but he did make sure to get up and watch it on TV at home with his brothers.
“It was always special,” Herbert said. “It’ll be a really cool experience.”