Brent Brennan, a former Oregon State assistant, said he knew Herbert was special during the 2016 Civil War
It was one of the low points of Justin Herbert’s football life.
On Nov. 2016, Herbert completed 16 of 28 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown during Oregon’s 34-24 loss to Oregon State.
After the bitter Civil War defeat capped a 4-8 campaign for the Ducks, Herbert walked off the field for the last time with Mark Helfrich as his coach.
One of the Beavers’ assistant coaches celebrating that evening at Reser Stadium, Brent Brennan, knew the rivals were going to be in good hands at quarterback again.
Two years and two head coaches later, Herbert has the Ducks’ offense soaring again.
“I think he’s the best quarterback in the country,” Brennan, now in his second season as San Jose State’s head coach, said on Monday. “and I think I would have said that when I was at Oregon State two years ago and the kid was a freshman.
“He’s really got a great combination of arm talent and touch, and then he’s a big body that sees the field well and can move.”
No. 20 Oregon will host Breenan’s Spartans on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Herbert already has nine touchdowns this season, the most through the first two games of a season in program history.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior is one of four FBS quarterbacks — along with Missouri’s Drew Lock, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and West Virginia’s Will Grier — with four or more touchdown passes in each of the first two games.
San Jose State ranks 129th out of 130 FBS teams in passing defense (433 ypg) and 126th in total defense (566.5 ypg).
UC Davis quarterback Jake Maier passed for 446 yards passing and three touchdowns to lead the FCS program to a 44-38 win at San Jose State in the opener.
During the Spartans’ 31-0 loss last week at Washington State, Gardner Minshew passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Cougars.
“It’s a great challenge for our defense, it’s a great challenge for our staff,” Brennan said of preparing for Herbert and the Ducks. “I think our kids have played against two good quarterbacks these first two games. I’m hoping there is some carry over, but I think Justin is something totally different.”
UO-Stanford gets start time
The Ducks will find out if they’re ready for prime-time television on Sept. 22.
Oregon’s Pac-12 opener against No. 9 Stanford at Autzen Stadium will begin at 5 p.m. on ABC.
Mario Cristobal’s squad is off to a 2-0 start following blowout wins over Bowling Green and Portland State by a combined score of 120-38.
The Ducks opened as a 41-point favorite over San Jose for this Saturday’s nonconference finale at Autzen (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“Our tests have to come every day in practice and we have a test coming up this week as well in San Jose State,” Cristobal said after Oregon’s 62-14 win over Portland State. “But we need to test ourselves and we do. We go good on good every single day.”
The Cardinal, which hosts UC Davis this Saturday, is one of the toughest tests on the Ducks’ schedule. Stanford (2-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) beat South Division favorite USC last week.
Tight end challenges
Portland State tight end Charlie Taumoepeau had five receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. His teammates only combined for three receptions for 33 yards.
Cristobal said Oregon’s defense will be tested again by San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver. The 6-5, 250-pound senior leads his team with 13 receptions for 137 yards.
“He’s the total package,” Brennan said. “He’s a great kid and a great leader for our team. He’s one of those guys you love having on your football team, and we’re just really fortunate to have him here. He’s doing a great job so far.”
The Ducks lost starting tight end Cam McCormick to a season-ending foot injury in the opener.
Jacob Breeland played through a hand injury, and Kano Dillon caught a 20-yard touchdown against Portland State. Ryan Bay, Hunter Kampmoyer and Matt Mariota also saw action in the game.
“I thought the position stepped up,” Cristobal said. “They knew the situation and the circumstances and they never flinched.”
Winston cleared, Stack close
Cristobal said Monday that starting outside linebacker La’Mar Winston, who did not dress for the Portland State game after suffering a concussion against Bowling Green, practiced Sunday and has been cleared to play.
Placekicker Adam Stack is “just about ready to go” after sitting out the first two games with a sore leg.
Four of Cristobal’s assistants — running backs coach Jim Mastro (1996), offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo (2006-08), defensive line coach Joe Salave’a (2008-09) and cornerbacks coach Donte Williams (2013-15) — were previously assistants at San Jose State. …
Arroyo also played quarterback for the Spartans from 1998-2002. He played in San Jose State’s 58-3 loss at Autzen in 1998 as a freshman. …
Through two games, 11 different players have scored a touchdowns for the Ducks, which leads the nation. …
Oregon has averaged 43.4 points in Herbert’s 17 career starts.
“I would say Autzen is the hardest place to play in America,” said Brennan, who played at UCLA and was on the Oregon State staff from 2011-16.