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Photo by Playstation Fiesta Bowl/Slingshot Photography
Oregon Football

Players of the Game: Defense

January 2, 2021

Going into this game, the defense knew it neeeded to contain star running back Breece Hall. He gashed the Ducks for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 34 carries. His performance allowed Iowa State to grind down the clock and keep the ball away from Oregon’s offense. 

However, looking at quarterback Brock Purdy –- he was incredibly average and I imagine he didn’t do anything Andy Avalos wasn’t expecting. Let’s take a look at three players that stood out from a defense that was asked to be on the field for more than 40 minutes of the game. 

Who stood out the most to you?

Mykael Wright 

Wright didn’t blow up the stat sheet, but as we know, that isn’t a bad thing for a defensive back. He continued to be the steady force he has been all season in the secondary. His final stat line: 3 total tackles, 2 solo tackles, and 1 pass break up. 

That pass break up was huge at the time, as Travis Dye just fumbled after Iowa State scored an easy touchdown. That breakup kept the defense energized and the unit would go on to hold on a fourth and goal play, keeping the game within just one touchdown. 

Wright wasn’t as effective on special teams as he was last year, but his overall play this year was consistent and his growth is undeniable. His physicality will be necessary if Oregon wants to re-assert itself as one of the Pac-12’s top conference .

Now we wait to see if Deommodore Lenoir returns to Eugene for another season or declares for the NFL draft, in which case Wright would becomes Oregon’s true No. 1 cornerback.

Wright’s final season stats: 22 total tackles, 16 solo tackles, 8 passes defended. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux 

Breece Hall ran well as expected and Brock Purdy was able to escape the pass rush multiple times, but Thibodeaux was his normal self to close out the season. He finished the Fiesta Bowl with 6 total tackles, 4 solo tackles and 2 tackles for loss. 

The pass rush only got home once, a sack by Jordon Scott in the third quarter, but Thibodeaux’s presence in the backfield on Saturday in his run defense is further evidence of his development as an every-down, more solid overall defender. 

Iowa State Offensive Coordinator Tom Manning called him the best defensive end in the country and while the Cyclones offensive line was solid, he was still able to leave his mark on Oregon’s final game of the season.

Thibodeaux’s final season stats: 32 total tackles, 19 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 3 passes defended. 

Noah Sewell

Sewell started his first game for the Ducks in their win against Washington State and the freshman has only improved in the time since. The Oregon backer finished with 7 tackles, 4 solo tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Cyclones. He left the game briefly early in the first half but showed his strength and durability by quickly returning. 

After Isaac Slade-Matautia got ejected for targeting, he was one of the few linebackers Oregon could really trust aside from Mase Funa. Sewell is just a step above the rest of the linebackers on Oregon’s roster and always manages to be square in the action and ready to make a play. 

His coverage will need to improve as a younger linebacker, but that will come with time in the Oregon defense. With a full (ish) season under his belt, he will look to elevate his play as a sophomore and build off his achievement of being named the Pac-12’s top defensive newcomer. 

Sewell’s final season stats: 37 total tackles, 21 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble.

Tags: Football, Oregon
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