Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 11, 2018 at 9:16 pm.

Ducks staying focused as nonconference ends

Without realizing it, the Oregon football players owe a lot of their early season success to the San Jose State football program. With the Spartans football program, it’s hard to imagine that the Ducks would be where they are right now; 2-0 and ranked No. 20 in the nation.

As Oregon gets ready to finish up the nonconference portion of its season, four of its current assistant coaches can be tracked to coaching for San Jose State at one point in their careers.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo has the greatest connection to the Spartans, being a member of the coaching staff from 2005-08, after starring on the team at quarterback from 1998-2002.

“Whenever you play against your alma mater, there’s something special about that,” Cristobal said. “But at the same time, the approach is so business-like here. I hope that’s something we’re continually exuding.”

San Jose State is also a special place to Oregon co-defensive coordinator Joe Salave’a, who got his coaching career started there in 2008 as the defensive line coach. Running backs coach Jim Mastro — the creator of the pistol offense — spent the 1996 season in San Jose as the linebackers and special teams coach.

Cornerbacks coach Donte Williams made a name for himself as secondary coach for San Jose State from 2013-15. During his time there, the Spartans were among the nation’s best in passing defense. Williams also became an elite recruiter for the Spartans, a job that’s served him well and earned him national praise ever since.

Even though the game may feel like somewhat of a homecoming for the coaches, it’s just another game to the Ducks. With Pac-12 play beginning the following week against No. 9 Stanford — and the potential of ESPN’s College Gameday coming to Eugene on September 22 — Oregon is solely focused on the Spartans, a team that could surprise the Ducks if taken lightly.

“Not only anticipate — expect it, demand it,” Cristobal said of preparing properly each week. “They’ll demand it from each other … it’s our approach, and it has to stay that way.”

Last week was a good showing of how the Ducks stay focused in the moment and don’t look ahead.

When facing overmatched Portland State, Oregon committed just five penalties the entire game, none of which came from the offense. The Ducks were able to stay focused on their assignments and not look ahead to what the future holds.

“Those are the most important things, the focal points,” Cristobal said. “I think you’ll hear that echoed through every single member of this organization throughout the week.”