San José St Spartans
#129 in S&P+ (#128 Offense, #117 Defense)
SJSU started the season by losing to UC Davis from the FCS, and followed that by getting shut out by Washington St. I was only able to acquire the latter game’s film to review, which may have been a mercy as it was at times difficult to watch.
This felt eerily similar to Portland St in several ways: first, the offensive line doesn’t have the bodies for this level of play, and as such they have no run game to speak of (SJSU had nine total rushing yards against Wazzu); second, the quarterback spent the entire game running for his life (nine sacks & hurries last week); and third, the only playmaker in the entire unit is the tight end ... weirdly, he even has the same jersey number, #89, as PSU’s best player.
Also eerie: after the starting #12 QB Love was injured in the opener, against Wazzu the Spartans had to go back to the QB who started eight games in 2017 as a freshman, #7 QB Aaron. That broke the school record for most starts by a freshman QB, which was previously held by … Marcus Arroyo.
Setting that weirdness aside, we’ve gotten no updates on Love’s status, or that of another backup who got a few reps against Wazzu, #14 QB Carrillo. So it’s possible that for the second straight week Oregon will face a different quarterback than who they put on film in the previous game.
But assuming they play Aaron again, I actually thought he wasn’t half bad all things considered. A few highlights:
And by a few, I mean all. These four plays represent 100% of SJSU’s effective offense outside of garbage time (and even that’s using the more charitable criteria for the term). Notice that three of them go to #89 TE Oliver, who really stands out as a challenge to tackle and was comically throwing around the Wazzu secondary trying to bring him down. My apologies to the reader for not having more to show you, the offense really is that dire.
Even though they’re not much higher off the floor in defensive S&P+, I thought this unit did much better. It’s a 3-3-5 with a lot of blitzes, which did produce a good deal of havoc, but on the other hand couldn’t consistently get stops - Wazzu never punted in the first half because they either scored or got intercepted on every drive, and the Cougs converted 80% of their 4th down attempts in the game.
I think SJSU did best at run stopping, so let’s start there:
Wazzu’s backs only gained 53 yards on the ground (on 12 carries; the Cougs actually ran more often than I was expecting, and that’s prior to building a big lead). These were the Spartans’ most impressive stops, both featuring their best linebacker, #31 LB Aguayo, but also a lot of swarming to the ball.
While it didn’t produce any sacks, I thought the pass rush was relatively effective:
This clip shows off SJSU’s best linemen: #9 DE Bridges who uses his arm leverage well, #92 DE Hall who’s got a nice swim move, and great big #4 NT Latu who occasionally put the center on skates.
The weak spot, which is not a good one to have against Wazzu, was the secondary and LBs in pass coverage - defending the air raid requires good communication in zone coverage and, if you’re blitzing as much as SJSU does, very tight man coverage ... but I didn’t see much of either. The result was giving up 420 passing yards in the game. A couple bright spots though:
Here we’re seeing SJSU’s inside corner, #19 CB Monroe, making a bunch of plays, as well as their outside corners #23 CB Shelton and #24 CB Zigler, plus Aguayo and #11 LB Osuna with some nice work out of their linebacker spots. In addition to these two first-half interceptions, they pulled in a third during garbage time (in perhaps the most Wazzu thing I have ever seen, the Cougs threw a pick with 25 seconds left in the game while up by 31 points).
Wazzu brought some weird stuff to this game, including their now famous Banana play, which is a bit of a takeoff of the swinging gate Oregon had used for years on 2-pt tries. SJSU was ready for it both times in the first half:
That’s right Mike Leach, San José St don’t wanna see your banana.