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Oregon Football

Keys to the Game: Defense

November 20, 2020

Oregon is allowing a modest 21.5 points a game this season, but the Ducks have given up 268.5 passing yards per contest -- 107th in the nation. They also have only 1 recorded sack, despite getting some solid pressure on the quarterback.

A bigger problem is that the defense has yet to force a takeaway. In fact, Oregon is minus-5 on turnovers for the season.

The Ducks will look to turn things around Saturday, but they’re facing a feisty UCLA squad that already has had two solid offensive performances. Here are my three keys defensively.

Limit explosive running plays

UCLA has run the ball really efficiently, averaging 209.5 yards per game for 26th in the nation. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has ripped off a handful of big runs, including a 65-yard touchdown against Colorado.

Cat quick Demetric Felton is the main guy in the backfield, but Brittain Brown also gets some work, and they both have been effective. With Thompson-Robinson offering dual-threat ability, explosion plays could be an issue.

Oregon yielded a couple of big running plays to Stanford, but the Ducks did a much better job against Washington State. To win on Saturday, he Oregon front seven needs to play more like it did in Pullman.

Force DTR to scramble, then contain him

Thompson-Robinson has real speed and athleticism, but it’s important to get his feet moving. He can deliver strike after strike if he has time in the pocket, so you want him to bail out of a clean pocket simply because he’s worried about getting sacked.

Expect Thompson-Robinson to make a handful of plays on the run and complete some great throws, but any quarterback is going to be less effective on the run. Oregon has “spied” quarterbacks before, and we could see that again.

Oregon has the personnel to spy given its legit speed guys at linebacker with great tracking ability – particularly Noah Sewell and Adrian Jackson. By getting pressure and having someone there to take away his running lanes, Oregon can force DTR into making some poor decisions; in 2019, he was intercepted 12 times.

Coral the tight ends

In 2020, the Bruins' tight ends have combined for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most of them were from Greg Dulcich, but Mike Martinez has contributed as well, including a touchdown against Colorado.

The 6-4, 242-pound Dulcich offers genuine ability to create yards after the catch. One of his touchdowns was from 52 yards out, and he also has a 44-yarder to his credit. He's also a weapon on third downs and in the red zone.

Might Kelly put both tight ends on the field at the same time to create mismatches? Martinez is DJ Johnson-sized at 6-5 and 268 pounds.

Solo or in tandem, Oregon must neutralize Dulcich and Martinez and make Thompson-Robinson force the ball downfield.

Tags: Football, Oregon
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