Photo by Scott Boldt
Oregon Football

Keys to the Game: Oregon Defense vs Arizona

November 15, 2019

The Oregon defense comes into this game allowing 15.8 points per game, which ranks 10th nationally. It will look to continue to add to that success against a Wildcat team that has struggled to do much outside of running the ball with JJ Taylor.

Here’s the three things the Oregon defense will need to do if they want to stop the Wildcats.

Consistent Pressure Off the Edge

Arizona has given up 25 sacks through nine games, and that’s a big reason why their offense has struggled. Oregon’s edge guys getting pressure on the quarterback would be big for two reasons.

First, it would help contain Tate and not allow him to stand in the pocket for a few seconds before he finds a hole and takes off running. Second, it would expose Tate and Gunnell's limitations as pure passers.

If you can get Arizona into obvious passing situations on second and third downs and force the Wildcats to try to hit guys downfield, it could be the recipe for a multi-interception night for an Oregon defense that ranks first nationally in that category with 17.

This is a chance for the true freshmen Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mase Funa to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.

Plug Up the Middle

Guys like Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu have a chance to take away Taylor, who has been Arizona's most consistent player on offense. If they can plug up multiple gaps and not allow Arizona to find success up the middle, it’ll force Arizona into uncomfortable passing situations.

The Arizona offense is limited in its ability to throw the football, and that weakness plays into what has been the strength of the Oregon defense. Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. could be in for big games if the Oregon defensive line can stop the run and the edge guys can get after the quarterback.

Contain the Quarterback

Arizona has yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday, but I have a feeling we see senior Kahlil Tate at the beginning. If that’s the case, Oregon will need to be able to keep him from running the football effectively.

Tate isn’t as accurate of a passer as freshman Grant Gunnell, but what he makes up for with his feet. He has more than 300 yards on the ground and 3 touchdowns this season, and Pac-12 teams have seen what Tate is capable of before.

Even if Gunnell gets the starting nod, the 6-6 signal caller is versatile enough to be able to extend plays with his feet. Oregon's defenders need to guard against it.

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