No Magic Formula For Duck Opponents

Whenever the Oregon offense is neutralized, people wonder if a perfect equation has been conceived to stymie the high-powered Duck offense. Many will wonder if the Cardinal devised a game plan that Oregon State will replicate Saturday to stump the offense again.

EUGENE, Ore.,- One thing is for certain; the Beavers (8-2, 6-2) have a much-improved defense. So much better than last year, that they now rank second, only behind Stanford, in the Pac-12 in scoring and rushing defense.

To this point in the season, however, Oregon State is schematically much different than the Cardinal, playing a four-man front, rather than a three-man, and funneling most of the plays to their linebackers.

"They're built differently. It's a different scheme, first and foremost," head coach Chip Kelly said. "But there are obviously good athletes on that side of the ball."

"There is not a specific formula for stopping this team. I feel like the only formula is us stopping ourselves," running back Kenjon Barner said.

Whether that is true or not, the Beavers certainly have the bodies upfront to give Oregon difficulty, a change perhaps in what they had last season when they were last in the conference in rushing defense.

A lot of that comes from improved maturity, strength and understanding on the defense line, Kelly says. Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton both started as freshmen on the ends a year ago. Now, as sophomores, they've become All-League caliber players.

"Crichton, he's a physical man," said left tackle Tyler Johnstone, who figures to match up against him often on Saturday. "He'll bull rush anyone off the line. That's one thing we really need to look out for."

The Tacoma-native has 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks on the year, both fourth best in a league full of outstanding pass rushers.

But perhaps the defensive's biggest star is cornerback Jordan Poyer, who was the only Beaver on an All-Conference team last season and now leads the conference with six interceptions.

"He's been there a long time and he can make plays," Marcus Mariota said of the senior playmaker.

But according to Kelly, they won't shy away from Poyer, not because they underestimate his skills, but because the corner opposite of him is just as dangerous.

"Anyone who goes into the game saying ‘We're going to throw away from Jordan and throw at [Rashaad] Reynolds', it's like pick your poison," he said.

Kelly made similar statements regarding the difficulty of defending Oregon State's talented duo of receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. Kelly says they won't plan on double-teaming either, just like they won't pick on either corner, because doing so would leave the other available for big gains.

"Their scheme is such that they can figure it out and get the ball to the right guys," he said. "So, we've got to make sure we've got eyes on both those guys."

That's something the rest of the league has struggled to do, allowing each to catch over 58 balls and 986 yards in ten games this season.

The key, according to linebacker Michael Clay, will be to disrupt their patterns by playing tight bump-coverage and get hands on them when they cross the middle of the field. If either does catch the ball, then it's a matter of wrapping up, something that is imperative considering the pair's explosiveness.

"They can turn six into 60 really quick," Kelly said.

Defending them has drawn comparisons to defending USC's Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, and according to defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, that is of major concern.

"I actually think these guys stretch you down the field more [than USC]. They really do," he said. "These two guys are something special. I'm impressed."

Who will be throwing them the ball has changed multiple times this season, as Sean Mannion started the season at quarterback, but an injured knee knocked him out and brought in back-up Cody Vaz. Vaz played well as the replacement, so much so, that he relinquished the job after Mannion returned and struggled in a loss to Washington.

Mannion will have to go this week, however, as Vaz was injured on the last play of their loss to Stanford two weeks ago.

"The kid [Mannion] who played last week, looked pretty good to us," Kelly said. He also believes that based upon last week's appearance versus California Mannion is "the same as he was earlier in the year."

Oregon will play Oregon State as part of the 116th Civil War Saturday at Reser Stadium at 12 p.m. The Pac-12 Network has picked up the broadcast and will feature Ted Robinson as play-by-play, with Glenn Parker also in the box and Ryan Nece on the field.

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