There are not many people who would have expected the Oregon defense to be the primary catalyst to beating Michigan State. However, that’s exactly what happened. After looking vulnerable and downright inept at times, Oregon stiffened and took the fight to the Spartans. After Michael Geiger put the Spartans up by 9 with 10:55 in the third, the Duck defense pitched a shutout and gave the offense the opportunity they needed to shine.
Interestingly enough the Oregon defense came out of the gates like a house afire, forcing a pair of punts and then an interception by Erick Dargan. It wasn’t until the second quarter that Michigan State got their traction and started to punish the Oregon defense. The Spartans struck for 24 points and had the Ducks on the ropes.
What is important about this game is Oregon can finally put the theory to bed that they can’t beat a grind it out, smash mouth team. Michigan State hit the Ducks with everything they had and Oregon hit back.
In a moment that will likely get lost in the shuffle, the Ducks faced down a 4th and 2 with Michigan State knocking at the door and threatening to get back into it. The handoff went to Jeremy Langford and instead of finding the first down, he found De’Forest Buckner and Arik Armstead who drug him down short of the first down, giving the ball back to the Ducks.
“That fourth down stop is a turnover. To me that’s a turnover in the red zone and that is a big deal. It’s a very big deal,” said Defensive Backs coach John Neal.
Another shining star for Oregon today was Troy Hill. The corner back led the team in tackles and proved to be a pest for an otherwise effective Connor Cook. Hill will continue to see action throughout the year, because of his counterpart Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. In the second quarter, Hill took a bump and had a knee injury but kept bugging Coach Neal to get him back in the game.
“He put a brace on a half time. He’s just bugging me, behind me going ‘I can go. I can go.’ I’ve never had that situation happen in the thirty something years I have coaching. Sometimes I just trust people’s courage. Obviously, he really responded,” said Neal.
While Oregon seems to have quieted the critics for now, they still have to face down the remainder of a tough Pac-12 schedule with UCLA and Stanford looming large down the road. While the story will go to Marcus Mariota and his 360 total yards and 3 touch downs, it will be important to remember those statistics would be just a footnote on a loss without stout play from the defense down the stretch.
Defense steps up their game against Spartans
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