The College Football season is in full swing and so far the Oregon Ducks Offense, led by Heisman Trophy Candidate Marcus Mariota have been fiting on all cylinders. The team is 4-0 on the season and escaped Washington State with a victory two weeks ago where it was clear in watching the game that there were issues on the offensive line.
With the number of injuries the Oregon Ducks have had I would expect that. However the Oregon Ducks Defense has not looked so solid this season so far. Cornerback Ifo Epre-Olomu was burned several times for scores against the Cougars and an athletic Wide Receiver in Dom Williams. Earlier this season it seemed that Olomu was not getting any attention as opposing quarterbacks knew his talent, but entering the Pac-12 season is not a time you want to appear soft. The Oregon Ducks did win the game and have had several flashes of brilliance this season.
In week two the Oregon Ducks met Michigan State and although the Spartans took a lead into the half, the Oregon Defense stood up posting a fourth quarter shutout of MSU. Teams have had the opportunity to both run and pass successfully on Oregon this season, however in the end the Offense, led by Mariota, was too much for a team to overcome. Olomu also had a key interception toward the end of the game with the Spartans.
Olomu will again have his work cut out for himself this weekend with two big wide receivers coming in from Arizona in Cayleb Jones who has pulled in six touchdowns for four-hundred seventy five yards. To compare, Oregon’s Devon Allen leads the Oregon Ducks with five touchdowns and just under three hundred yards. The Oregon Cornerbacks unit will have their work cut out for themselves on Thursday night against the Wildcats.
Let’s take a step back for moment. Prior to this season Oregon was led on Defense by one man. Nick Alliotti, who was with the Ducks for over twenty years. This season is the first for Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum, who is no stranger to the program as both a coach and a player. There is a big difference between twenty years of experience vs less than a year. In the day of the spread offense that, it seems, everyone is adopting stopping plays and shutting down the opposing team completely really is not possible anymore.
It is now more, “Let me see if I can limit our mistakes on the defensive side of the ball and we can outscore you on offense.” vs “Our defense will pitch a shutout every game.” With the Oregon Ducks the first clearly applies here. Of course there are defenses around the country that can slow things down and muck things up pretty good. I look at Stanford as the clear Pac-12 team that is stingy with giving up yards.
Can Oregon get there? Sure – but it will take time. The Oregon Ducks persona right now is not their Defense, but their dynamic offense. The Defense has been solid and in a ‘bend not break’ mode in key game moments this season. Duplicating this over the course of an entire season may be a different story.
Arizona Quarterback Anu Solomon has passed for over fourteen-hundred yards this season and has the Wildcats at 4-0. He is also responsible for thirteen touchdowns. Entering the week Arizona is ranked seventh in the country in passing offense, ahead of the Oregon Ducks who sit at sixteenth. Thursday night’s game will be very telling of how good the Oregon Defense can be this season.
The Defense stood tall in the second half against Michigan State and they may have to do it again against Arizona. If Oregon gets stops on Defense against Arizona(7:30pm, ESPN) the season long narrative may shift from the defense to the offense, which is where it should have been all along.
Eugene Daily News will provide Live Coverage of the game against Arizona tonight starting at 6pm Pacific Time. Follow our pregame, during the game, and after at #EDNSports or at AutzenZoo.com