Ducks Defense Wins The Day

Noah Smith FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Contrary to popular opinion, Oregon is not just an offensive team. The Ducks definitively proved this point Thursday, showing their strength and shaking off the label of being a soft team en route to a 59-20 thrashing of FSU. Yes, they are fast, but speed and toughness are not mutually exclusive. They showed off this toughness and strength by consistently beating the Seminoles at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. In the end, the  entire team played well, but I think the defense deserves a lot of credit that is likely to get lost in the shadow of the offense.

Ducks swarming around Winston

John Sperry

Ducks swarm around Winston.

On the back of a powerful defensive line and a quick suffocating secondary, our beloved Ducks destroyed the team that had become ESPN’s media darling. Watching Oregon’s defense, the scheme looked like a mad man’s brew, combining a bit of Tony Dungy’s “bend but don’t break” Tampa 2 defense with a slew of exotic blitzes commonly found in Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers’s 34 Zone Blitzing schemes. A large amount of the time Oregon was only bringing four or fewer defenders, but bringing them from every spot imaginable. Numerous snaps had lineman dropping into Zones and sending safeties and linebackers on delayed blitzes. At the goal line they were able to stuff numerous runs up the middle, offtackle, and even keep Jameis Winston an inch short of the goal line on a 4th down option keeper.  This combination of suffocating coverage and exotic blitzes confused Winston and the FSU O-Line, wreaking havoc and causing five turnovers in the second half.

The one weakness Oregon’s defense had early was against the run; unfortunately for FSU they weren’t able to take advantage of it. Even though they gave up a bunch of yardage on the ground, they were able to hold FSU to only field goals twice in the first half, and to zero points once. In the second half Oregon largely nullified the running game by taking the ball away from Dalvin Cook twice, and getting out to such a lead that FSU had to throw the ball. This strong showing against FSU bodes well going into the Championship Game against Ohio State.

Arik Armstead starring down the competition

Craig Strobeck

Arik Armstead stares down the competition.

For one thing, Ohio State’s passing game is not going to be as dangerous as FSU’s. Despite doing great since assuming the starting QB role, Cardale Jones is not the passer that Winston is, or even that J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller were. Ohio State’s weaker passing game combined with Oregon’s suffocating secondary will allow Oregon’s defense more freedom to stop the run game. This freedom will allow the Ducks to be able to get more men at the line of scrimmage in order to contain RB Ezekiel Elliott and Jones. This strong defense will go a long way to help Marcus Mariota and Mark Helfrich bring home Oregon’s first Championship trophy. In closing I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Urban Meyer’s Sugar Bowl post-game press conference.

Top Photo by John Sperry

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