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Oregon Football

Oregon Football Defensive Keys to Victory

October 9, 2019

The 2019 Oregon football team had several streaks broken against the California Golden Bears, including a major defensive milestone. After holding three straight opponents (Nevada, Montana and Stanford) without a touchdown, the Oregon defense finally allowed an opposing offense to reach the end zone. 

That touchdown, which came early in the game while California backup quarterback Devon Modster looked serviceable, was surprising. The Golden Bears weren’t expected to move the ball efficiently against Oregon’s defense, and on that drive they did just that.

Fortunately for Oregon fans and those who believe this Oregon defense is something special, the unit regrouped. It pitched a shutout the rest of the way, leading Oregon’s 17-7 comeback win. 

The Ducks did just about everything right. They shut down California receivers, stifled the running game and made Modster try to win the game on his own. With more than half the 2019 season to play, this Oregon defense has proven itself elite.

There are, however, concerns.

Senior end Gus Cumberlander will miss the remainder of the season due to injury, and Oregon’s toughest opponents are ahead. The Ducks haven’t been tested of late by a team with any semblance of an offense; Friday’s matchup against Colorado will be their toughest test since Auburn. 

The Buffaloes are no joke. Quarterback Steven Montez is an excellent game-manager. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is something special, and if they’re not careful the Ducks could be surprised by Colorado’s firepower. 

Here are the defensive keys to victory on Friday.

Understand Colorado Is More than Shenault

Entering 2019, Shenault was a dark horse Heisman candidate. After leading Colorado in an injury-shortened sophomore season with 1,011 receiving yards and 6 receiving TDs and showcasing his talents in the return game, many expected Shenault to shine brightly in his final collegiate season.

To date, that has not been the case. Shenault has been targeted by defenses and limited by injuries, and his availability is in question for the Oregon game. With or without Shenault, the Colorado offense has been just fine.

The Buffs have scored 30-plus points in all but one game and have shown the capability to strike fast.

Leading the way for the Buffaloes has been senior wide receiver Tony Brown. He leads Colorado in targets, yards and receiving touchdowns. 

With question marks surrounding the status of Shenault and slot receiver K.D. Nixon (Colorado’s second-leading pass catcher), stopping a productive Brown will be key to limiting Colorado’s offense.

Let Kayvon Thibodeaux Show What He’s Got

The win against California was bittersweet. Cumberlander went down with a season-ending injury, finally allowing true freshman Thibodeaux to shine.

In accumulating 3 total tackles, 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble, Thibodeaux showed why he was the nation’s most coveted player in the 2019 recruiting class and why he will be special for years to come. Against Colorado, Thibodeaux will be a critical factor in pressuring Montez and keeping the Buffaloes from establishing offensive momentum. 

Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos needs to walk a fine line: Let Thibodeaux showcase his talents, but don’t put too much stress on a true frosh. Sophomore DJ Johnson should be counted upon to take some of the pressure off of Thibodeaux. 

Isaac Slade-Matautia Continues His Party Against the Run

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia had a day against California.

In posting a season-high 7 tackles, Slade-Matautia was a force who allowed California to get nothing going on the ground.

With Oregon needing to force the Buffaloes to be one-dimensional, Slade-Matautia’s play will again be a critical. Especially if Oregon manages to silence Brown and the rest of the Buffaloes’ wide receivers, Slade-Matautia must continue his impressive play along the front seven and continue to get into the backfield to disrupt the run. 

Colorado’s top back, Alex Fontenot, is having a fairly nice season so far (88 carries for 392 yards and 4 TDs). Oregon must be prepared for a balanced attack from Colorado, one that features a sound run game.

Tags: Football, Oregon
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