Following a 96-yard kickoff return by Thai Cottrell early in the fourth quarter, San Jose State’s offense only needed to go four yards to reach the end zone.
Instead, Oregon sent the Spartans back four yards before they settled for a field goal.
“Every time we are in the red zone, we try and dominate that space,” Oregon linebacker Troy Dye said. “You have to dominate the red zone to win games. You can’t give up touchdowns. We’ll take three points there, but we don’t like it.”
The crowd of 50,049 may have reached its peak volume during Oregon’s 35-22 win over the Spartans during that defensive stand.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Malik Robertson ran for one yard to the 3-yard line. Another incomplete pass led San Jose State to call a timeout and design a play for fourth down.
“Coach Joe (Salave’a) brought us together and said we know what we can do so we need to go out and prove it to everybody,” Oregon defensive end Jalen Jelks said. “He pushed us to make sure everyone was on the same page and locked in.”
As linebacker La’Mar Winston and other defenders encouraged the crowd to get loud, San Jose State was called for a false start that pushed the ball back to the 8-yard line where Bryce Crawford came out for his third field goal of the game.
“We came together as a defense and said ‘We need a stop’,” UO linebacker Justin Hollins said. “It doesn’t matter where they get the ball, we try to put our foot down and play Oregon defense.”
San Jose State had two touchdowns and three field goals on five trips to the red zone. Both of San Jose State’s drives that began in Oregon territory ended with three points.
“We try to stay poised no matter the circumstances,” Jelks said. “Play the defense we know we can play.”
San Jose State ran 28 times for 29 yards, including four sacks that resulted in a loss of 22 yards.
“We did a heck of a job against the run,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “I know they hit some big plays, but as an offense we need to keep our defense off the field a little bit more. They were out there for a lot of plays. They hit some big shots. … I would like to see us eliminate those explosive plays.”
San Jose State had three completions of 30 yards or more that accounted for 121 of its 296 yards of offense. In last week’s 62-14 win over Portland State, the Ducks gave up two pass plays that combined for 118 of PSU’s 158 yards through the air.
“Eliminating some of those explosive plays comes with learning and watching film,” Dye said. “We need to learn from our mistakes and improve on that. The things we did bad today, we need to watch film to get where we need to go. Keep fighting and going forward.”
Hollins had an interception and forced a fumble in addition to eight tackles, including two for loss.
“Just one of those days, it was going right for me,” Hollins said. “I tried my best to do what I could to help the defense.”
Senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi matched Hollins with a team-leading eight tackles.
“Every time I was in the backfield, he was in there with me, which is kind of crazy,” Jelks said. “He was making more plays than me. To have a defensive back like that is tremendous.”
Freshman Jevon Holland got his first interception in the opening quarter.
“When they came out in that formation, I went through my regular keys,” Holland said. “I knew they run that route out at 10, so I reacted and broke on it.”
Facing three overmatched opponents in nonconference play, the Ducks are allowing 20 points per game as they head into the Pac-12 against Stanford on Saturday.
“Guys like Hollins and Troy Dye and Ugo are playing at a high level and that affects the guys around them,” Cristobal said. “I see it taking another step in the next week as well.”