What To Watch For In Oregon State’s Season-Opener at San Jose State

By T.J. Mathewson

Contributor, 750 The Game

At long last, Oregon State opens up the 2023 season this upcoming Sunday, as they’ll be on the road to face the San Jose State Spartans (12:30 p.m., CBS). SJSU shook off their season-opening rust in week zero, falling to the high-flying USC Trojans 56-28 in L.A.

The Beavers are 4-2 against San Jose State all-time and have won the last four in a row, including a 35-21 win in the most recent meeting in 2015. This is the first game played in San Jose since 1988, a 41-27 Oregon State win. The Beavers open up as heavy favorites (-16.5), and won and covered all three times they were favored by at least 10 points in 2022.

What do the Beavers need to do to come back to Corvallis 1-0? Here’s what I’m looking for.

  1. Contain SJSU QB Chevan Cordeiro.

Opening up on the road against a quarterback with 36 career starts is not the most welcoming task for an opposing defense. The Beavs have seen Cordeiro before, back when was at Hawaii and threw for 366 yards and ran for another 53 yards at Reser Stadium in the 2021 season, a 45-27 Oregon State win. That was a Tim Tibesar-led OSU defense at the time, and now with Trent Bray at the controls, the plan must be to keep Cordeiro under control. The preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year threw for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns last week at USC, adding 52 yards on the ground (SJSU rushed for 198 yards as a team).

In last year’s season-opener, the Beavers got gashed by fellow Mountain West standout QB Taylor Green of Boise State (155 yards in the air and 111 on the ground) but won comfortably 34-17. The Beavs defense is going to have some rust to shake off in its first game action of the season, and won’t have the raucous energy of Reser Stadium behind them as they did last year. The unit also introduces new starters in inside linebacker Calvin Hart Jr. and cornerback Tyrice Ivy Jr., while senior corner Jaden Robinson and senior Akili Arnold will also each step into much more prominent roles after starting one game each in 2022.

SIDE NOTE: Keep an eye on Spartars redshirt junior wide receiver Nick Nash. He caught all three touchdowns from Cordeiro against USC last week.

  1. Take advantage of special teams. 

Unless you were vacationing under a rock this past weekend, you probably saw USC star freshman Zachariah Branch rack up 232 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in his college debut, including a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put the game out of reach late in the third quarter. Branch also returned three punts for 66 yards (22.0 avg). There’s going to be some yards out there for preseason All Pac-12 First-Team returner Anthony Gould and Second-Team returner Silas Bolden. Should things go well, the Beavers won’t need a special teams score to win the game, but since those two are bound to take one to the house at some point this year, why not do it in the opener?

  1. Show some downfield spark.

Jonathan Smith said to the press on Tuesday that he believes his offense is more balanced than it was a year ago and he expects a more effective downfield passing game this season. Watching reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams play on easy mode last week against the Spartans (18/25, 278 yards, 4 TD, 11.1 yards/attempt) has to leave the Oregon State coaching staff thinking that they can pass effectively as well.

DJ Uiagalelei makes his Oregon State debut as starting quarterback, and while he might not be able to pull off this silly play, he’s going to have opportunities to make plays down the field with and has a fun group of receivers to throw to. Anthony Gould is the easy choice to get behind the defense, but freshman Zach Card got a lot of eyeballs in camp and can absolutely fly.

A season ago, the Spartans ranked 82nd nationally in yards allowed per pass attempt despite a fantastic pass rush that was second in the country in sacks per game (3.6) and sack percentage (11.3%). I thought Oregon State’s offensive line got better as fall camp went on despite hardly ever getting five starters on the field at once. The Pac-12’s best offensive line will give DJ plenty of time to pass and make explosive plays.


In the end, the Beavers will take care of business and set the tone for a highly-anticipated 2023 season.

OREGON STATE 38, San Jose State 17.

T.J. Mathewson is an Oregon State Beavers football contributor for 750 The Game. He also covers the Beavers for KEJO 1240 in Corvallis and has work featured throughout the season here.