All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu gave his praise to Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston this week, telling reporters, “There’s a lot of Pac-12 quarterbacks that are really smart, but the difference between [Winston] and them is he’s able to throw it into those small windows.” Ekpre-Olomu’s respect is well placed as he has witnessed the threat Winston poses to opposing defenses.
Unfortunately it appears the Ducks may be without their All-American cornerback for the Rose Bowl as Ekpre-Olomu suffered a leg injury in practice this week. Ekpre-Olomu was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award this year and would be responsible for making sure Winston does not connect with wide receiver Rashad Greene, who has been a key this year to helping Florida State come back from the brink of defeat to win.
This blow to the defense will force other stars to step up their game in Pasadena. This starts with safety Erick Dargan, who was a force for the Ducks this season leading the team in interceptions with six, solo tackles (51) and total tackles (82). Without Ekpre-Olomu it will be Dargan’s responsibility to ensure Winston doesn’t hurt the Ducks over the top. Winston has thrown more interceptions (17) than any quarterback Oregon has faced and Dargan will cause problems for him in the secondary.
Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com broke down how important turnovers will be for the Ducks. The turnover battle extends past the defense and on to what the offense can do with the extra possession. Oregon has been very good about creating opportunities, scoring 120 points off turnovers this season.
The Ducks have not only been successful scoring off turnovers, they have prevented their own mistakes from coming back to hurt them. The Ducks have turned the ball over eight times (two interceptions, six fumbles) but have only allowed 13 points off those mistakes, making their turnover points margin the second best in the country behind TCU. The Ducks are once again faced with adversity and will attempt to continue their successful season with a win in the first ever College Football Semifinal game.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline