With a victory over Stanford in the books, the Ducks are getting ready to face what may be their toughest opponent of the season in the No. 20 Utah Utes, who are coming off a tough loss to ASU. Caleb Couturie of FishDuck.com was in the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex after practice today to talk to All-American defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu about how the Ducks feel after crushing Stanford on Saturday night.
While Ducks fans are all still celebrating the felling of the Cardinal last weekend, our Ducks are hard at work for this weekend’s game against Utah. Asked about the mood of the team, Ekpre-Olomu told us that they were just trying to get better. “Its going to be just as big of a challenge as it was last week,” he said. Utah’s offense might not be the most threatening in the country but Ekpre-Olomu and the Ducks defense know that they need to help keep the Ducks in the game. “Their defense has been playing good; they’ve been keeping every game close,” he said. The Oregon defense that didn’t allow a touchdown in the second half against Stanford is looking to keep the ball rolling this weekend.
If there is a question about this team’s chance to make the College Football Playoff, it has been its defensive ability to finish games. The Ducks allowed three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against UCLA, as well as two touchdowns in the second half against Cal. A Ducks team that never stops working has been focusing on finishing games, and it showed on Saturday. “We did a good job in the second half of staying with that same attitude and energy for the entire game,” Ekpre-Olomu explained. If the defense can keep that energy going, Utah is going to have a tough time moving the ball this weekend.
With strong performances against Michigan State and Stanford, two incredibly tough teams, the myth that Oregon is unable to match up with the more physical teams in the country has been dispelled. When asked if he thought the Ducks considered themselves a physical team, Ekpre-Olomu was sure of himself and his teammates. “Of course,” he said. “You have to be a physical team to be a good team. That’s the only way.”
This physical defense is in for a challenge against Utah’s junior running back Devontae Booker who averages 123 yards a game on the ground to go along with eight touchdowns on the season. The Ducks know the run game is Utah’s strength, and they plan to stop it by getting guys to the ball. “[With] three, four, five guys there, they won’t get yards after contact. That’s the biggest thing,” Ekpre-Olomu told us.
After beating Stanford to silence the critics, The Ducks have a game plan to stop a strong Utah team and once again show that they are worthy of a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck