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Oregon red shirt Sophomore Quarterback Marcus Mariota runs for a first down  | Photo by Gary Breedlove

Defense Optional When Oregon and Texas Meet In Alamo Bowl

in Firehose/Headline Feed/Sports by

As the Ducks make the final preparations for their first non BCS bowl game since 2008 and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti prepares to ride off into the sunset, cold Coors in hand, much of the focus will be on slowing down a Longhorn rushing attack that has picked up nearly 200 yards a game this season. In Longhorn home games–and let’s face it, the Alamo Bowl figures to be more or less a UT home game–Mack Brown’s squad has rushed for 231 yards a game.

Since Washington’s Bishop Sankey ran for 167 yards against the Ducks, Aliotti’s defense hasn’t exactly been a brick wall against the run. The Ducks surrendered 200-plus rushing yards to UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon State. In Friday’s Alamo Bowl presser, the Ducks longtime defensive coordinator acknowledged he didn’t have his team ready to play against Arizona.

“I didn’t have them ready,” Aliotti said, “We didn’t play great. It’s probably one of the worst games that we’ve played that I can remember.”

In the same breath, Aliotti defended his team’s performance against Stanford, emphasizing that the Cardinal ran the ball 66 times against the Ducks, making the 274 yards the Ducks surrendered seem a little more reasonable. For the mathematically challenged, that comes out to 4.15 yards a cary, the epitome of a four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. So while Aliotti may point out that Stanford didn’t throw the ball much against the Ducks, it was because Oregon had no answer for Stanford’s power runs.

To be fair, the brunt of the blame for Oregon’s last two losses to Stanford falls on the offense, and Texas’s defense hasn’t looked too hot, either.

Oregon's longtime defensive coordinator will coach his last game for the Ducks when Oregon takes on Texas in the Alamo Bowl.  (GoDucks)

Oregon’s longtime defensive coordinator will coach his last game for the Ducks when Oregon takes on Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

The Longhorns have given up 180 yards a game on the ground in 2013, about 30 yards a game more than the Ducks, and the 21 rushing touchdowns the Longhorns have given up are five more than Oregon’s number in that department. All told, the Longhorns have given up over four football fields of yardage per game.

With Marcus Mariota’s knee at full strength for the first time in many moons, Oregon’s zone-read attack can return to the two headed monster it was last season–and that will open up the passing game as well. Even with the Ducks superstar Hawaiian forced to play more one-dimensionally than he would like, and even with Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost implementing a more pass-first offense, Oregon has a top ten rushing offense nationally, despite not having single thousand yard rusher–though Byron Marshall is five yards away from breaking the four digit plateau.

Texas doesn’t have a thousand yard guy, either, but the backfield duo of Jonathan Gray and Malcom Brown are each closer to 800 yards than 700.

Since Kiko Alonso and company left the Ducks, Oregon's front seven hasn't looked the same against the run.
Since Kiko Alonso and company left the Ducks, Oregon’s front seven hasn’t looked the same against the run.

While games that promise to be offensive shootouts rarely live up to the hype, there is certainly potential for the Alamo Bowl to be a high scoring affair, that is unless either team’s defense decides to show up. If the Ducks team that played against Arizona strolls onto the Alamo Bowl field–look out. But if Aliotti can get his team to play the way they did a season ago against Collin Klein, Oregon will ruin coach Brown’s final hour at Texas.


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