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SJSU preview vs. Oregon State: The big things to look for

A big day in Spartan history this Sunday

photo by: Ali Gradischer & Brian Rothmuller

Date/Time: Sunday, September 3, 2023, 12:30 PM kickoff

Location: CEFCU Stadium, San Jose, CA

Broadcast: CBS

Radio: 860 AM KTRB

Head-to-Head: The Beavers are 4-2 vs. the Spartans. It’s been over 40 years since SJSU’s last win over Oregon State (Spartan QB Chevan Cordeiro did defeat Oregon State 45-27 in 2021 when with Hawaii).

With no NFL games this weekend, San Jose State gets the Sunday national spotlight on CBS TV against another ranked-team in No. 18 Oregon State, after facing No. 6 USC last week.

It’s the perfect, unique game time rarely experienced by SJSU with attention to all that is new over the last seven years in Sparta - a resurgence and renaissance of new infrastructure and winning Spartan sports programs.

The crown jewel of the South Campus will also be “christened” on national TV, which is the first significant thing of note - the new 55,000 square foot Spartan Athletics Center framing the east side of CEFCU Stadium.

As much as head coach Brent Brennan is rallying the troops to show out on Sunday and to get people into the stands, behind the scenes pushing and pulling SJSU into a new era is Director of Athletics Jeff Konya. His larger-than-life-presence has been key.

“There’s a lot of people who’ve worked really hard where we’re playing better football and it’s been a total process,” said Brennan retrospecting his 2017 jump from Oregon State to SJSU to now. “Including our administration, our spouses, our kids, who all went through the hardships to get here.”

Brennan added, “You don’t get there without the hard work. It’s the cost of admission.”


Brennan firmly believes college coaches are one of the hardest working demographics. Going on year seven; the belief and expectations in the program still keep ratcheting up.

We’re often told to avoid stress, but in managed doses it hardens who you are. That’s what San Jose State is getting more of in the coming weeks. Big teams and big competition with Oregon State up next with fans who travel well.

“I think our fans are going to show up and have a great response to this game,” said Brennan. “It’s important because Oregon State fans will show up.”

Leading the way for the Beavers - 6’ 4”, 252 lb. DJ Uiagalelei (oo-ee-onga-lay). Another big-time quarterback matchup to the Spartans own formidable QB force in Cordeiro.

“DJ is such a big man who can make every throw,” said Brennan. “He’s one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen.”

Uiagalelei transferred to Oregon State after three years at Clemson. A “too basic” Tiger offense was the cause for the move after 5,681 passing yards, 36 touchdowns (17 INTs). Uiagalelei’s major league arm could made every throw this past spring in Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith’s wide-open scheme, where Uiagalelei was quickly deemed the starting quarterback.

“It’s an incredible challenge for us, because he’s a transfer player we haven’t seen play in Smith’s and Brian Lindgren’s offense.”

At running back, Beaver running back, 6’ 0”, 232 lbs. Damien Martinez expects to pack the other big punch. Martinez has 1,000+ yard rushing expectations this season.

Spartans’ offense

Confidence reaches far beyond San Jose State because a Cordeiro-led team is dangerous.

It’s a given that Cordeiro can lead, can run, can throw, can protect the ball, and can will his team at times. QB-turned-receiver Nick Nash’s three TD catches against USC is emerging as an early go-to for Cordeiro, along with backs Quali Conley and Kairee Robinson who made their presence felt last week.

Simple weaknesses to fix and extend scoring opportunities, especially against the Beavers and for the gauntlet still ahead:

  • Zero out the dropped passes
  • Don’t miss blocking assignments
  • Possibly, let Cordeiro loose earlier (though McGiven called a great game against USC).

Spartans’ defense

Against USC, the Spartans did OK despite the lopsided score and considering the Trojan quarterback.

Against Oregon State, who’s a two-plus-touchdown favorite, it comes down to the same ol’ thing - execution and assignments. Uiagalelei forces the secondary to stay true every play and the entire play, while Spartan backers and the DLine obviously must contain but also offer penetration.

Main weakness to fix to take away Beaver opportunities - basically, the Spartans need much better tackling.

The defensive leaders and the speed is showing up for the Spartans, but minimizing the Beavers’ yardage after contact is a must going forward. Also, getting Jordan Cobbs back at the backer spot soon would be a big boost to a robust group that includes Bryun Parham, Jordan Pollard, Tre Jenkins. Tre Smith and more.

Spartans’ special teams

The kicking game was great all-around. The return coverage not so much.

“Every team has one of the dynamic playmakers you have to be aware of,” said Brennan. “And Beaver receiver/returner Silas Bolden is that guy.”

Brennan is keenly aware of Bolden, as his older brother Victor Bolden (seven years in the NFL) was under Brennan’s tutelage for four years at Oregon State.

If the Spartans apply a similar effort like last week, while eliminating or minimizing the aforementioned weaknesses, the Spartans can defeat the Beavers.

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