Now that the regular season is over and Ducks fans are more than happy with the result, we look back on an incredible season. Heading into the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, and one of the most anticipated match-ups in modern history, what more can a Ducks fan want? This year’s Heisman-to-be, and last year’s Heisman will battle it out with a chance to take his respective team to the National Championship game in Dallas for a showdown with the winner of the Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Ohio State. The Ducks have the best player in the country on offense in Marcus Mariota, but what about the defense?
“You’re not expecting it. Oregon puts up 40 points, 50 points a game, so you’re expecting offense. It doesn’t mean our defense isn’t good,” says first team All-American Oregon Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
The Ducks, behind Mariota and freshman star Royce Freeman, average 46.3 points per game — good for third in the country. On the other side of the ball, the Ducks hold opponents to a respectable 22.5 points per game, coming in at a ranking of 29th in the country. Considering the Ducks hold their opponents, on average, to 24 fewer points per game then they put out, why are people so frustrated with the defense?
The game of football is so great because it is so unpredictable. The best team is rewarded week in and week out with a solid performance on both sides of the ball. In the case of the Oregon Ducks, it’s near impossible to comparatively match their offense to their defense, but people seem to try to do it anyway.
People know who Ekpre-Olomu and Tony Washington Jr. are, but don’t forget about Joe Walker or Erick Dargan. Walker contributed 71 tackles of his own, and is considered to be one of the best run defenders the Ducks have (the fumble return against Utah will be played at Autzen before games for years to come). Dargan, who cemented himself as one of the best safeties in the country, contributed 82 tackles on the year and led the Ducks with six interceptions.
When asked after the Arizona game about his defense, Oregon Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum said, “Except for a couple of plays, we played as good as we can play.” As satisfied as Pellum seemed after this game, he knows he has a tough job in preparing for the Florida State Seminoles and Jameis Winston, who have not lost a game since dropping one against the Florida Gators on November 24, 2012.
News to some, but obvious to others; the Ducks have a good defense and they are looking to display that against a Florida State Seminoles team that has struggled on offense at times this year, behind Winston. Big players make big plays in big games, and if the Ducks show up on defense like they are capable of doing, they might go on to play, and potentially win that so coveted National Championship trophy.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove