Photo by Scott Boldt
Oregon Football

Oregon Football Keys to Victory: Defense

September 5, 2019

The hurt from the Auburn loss lingers, but Oregon football is moving full steam ahead.

With just a few days remaining before the 2019 home opener against Nevada, the Ducks are no longer looking back, but forward. And against a Wolf Pack team fresh off a big comeback win against Purdue, Oregon will have to be ready for a battle.

Fortunately, one of the big takeaways from Texas was that the Oregon defense could be in for a big year. Under new coordinator Andy Avalos, the Ducks flashed potential, with Oregon’s secondary playing particularly well.

A stout D will be important against Nevada, which saw redshirt freshman QB Carson Strong showcase his abilities after finding a rhythm on offense in Week 1. Another impressive performance on defense, especially against an explosive team like Nevada, would do wonders for Oregon’s reputation and confidence.

Here are three defensive keys for Saturday. 

Limit Explosive Plays

The team with the most explosion plays in a game has a much better chance of coming away with a win. Nevada, a team that operates fast and looks for big gainers, will test Oregon vertically and to the boundaries.

Down 31-17 against Purdue entering the fourth quarter, the Wolf Pack scored the final 17 points of the game in thrilling fashion. The final three came on a last-second, 56-yard field goal by former walk-on kicker Brandon Talton. 

Nevada’s first touchdown drive in the fourth quarter saw the Pack take 5:07 off the clock on an 11-play, 74-yard drive. And the next saw them scorch the field in just 2:40 with an 11-play, 87-yard effort.

That final drive was indicative of how Nevada’s offense operates: fast and explosive. The Wolf Pack don’t look to advance the ball in small, calculated chunks; they don’t have the personnel to do that. Instead, they gain most of their yards through big plays that exploit defenders who react too quickly or get mixed up in coverage. 

Key the Run and Toa Taua

Don’t let the Purdue-Nevada box score fool you; the Wolf Pack love to run the ball. While sophomore running back Toa Taua was limited to just 56 yards on 12 carries against the Boilermakers, the 2018 Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year will continue to be a key for Nevada on offense -- so long as the Wolf Pack don’t fall too far behind.

Even though the back was stifled on the ground, he led Nevada in receiving, showcasing his ability to find open space and be the workhorse for his team.

Don’t Overreact

If there was one glaring weakness the Ducks showed on defense against the Tigers, it was that it was prone to overreacting or “biting” on plays. It was strange, especially from a defense led by veterans across the board.

Troy Dye in particular bit on a few fakes, costing the Ducks valuable yards and time on the field. With the way Nevada plays and looks for those big opportunities, Oregon will need to be more disciplined in how they react.

While blowing up a play and playing instinctually can be beneficial, the Ducks will need to be more mentally sound against Nevada. React to what is actually happening, not what you think is going to happen.

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