Defense delivers against Stanford
EUGENE — Perhaps the most telling moment from Oregon’s defense on Saturday night against Stanford was their fourth quarter goal line stand that prevented the Cardinal from posting a late score on the Ducks. In years past, this would’ve been a huge moment in a tight game. But this year the game was already well in hand for the Ducks and cemented the fact that the Cardinal were not going home with any cosmetic points in what turned into a 45-16 drubbing inside Autzen Stadium. “That was huge,” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “To keep them out of the end zone is a big deal for some of those guys who were in the game at that point. It’s a prideful group right now.” It was that kind of night for the Ducks (8-1), who jumped out to a fast start on both ends and didn't let off the gas all night. They took a giant step forward on Saturday and started off November the right way, and a lot of that was the result of a dominant defensive performance. A couple of second half turnovers, both caused by safety Erick Dargan, kept Stanford from capitalizing on any momentum they were accumulating late in the first half. The Cardinal took control of the ball to start the half following a late first half score by fullback Patrick Skov that cut the Ducks lead to 24-13. A scoring drive would’ve made it a one-possession game, but Dargan made sure that wouldn’t happen. The senior picked off an overthrown ball by Satnford quarterback Kevin Hogan on the first drive of the second half and later forced a fumble on Hogan that Tony Washington scooped up to ice the game in the fourth quarter. “The nice thing about (Dargan) is that he makes timely plays,” defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. “And we need them. So tonight was kind of what he’s been doing at practice and on the field at different times. Anytime you can get those types of play — a big interception, a fumble recovery — it zaps the other team. It steals momentum.” Stanford managed only one field goal in the half as the Ducks pulled away and almost assuredly claimed the Pac-12 North Division along with the win. Dargan led the Ducks with 12 tackles (nine solo) and linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu were right behind him with nine each (six solo). As Oregon exploded with three straight touchdown drives to start the contest, the defense held Stanford to two field goals, a welcome trade-off for the staff. The Ducks racked up five tackles for loss and stuffed the run game early and often. On 39 rushing attempts, the Cardinal were held to 132 yards. Even when they would stack the line similar to way the dominated Oregon last season, the Ducks adjusted and weren’t fooled. Hogan, who led the Cardinal with 42 yards rushing, was forced to go to the air where he found more success, but no touchdowns. And with the impact plays by Dargan and Washington, their hopes were dashed. Pellum was hopeful after the game that there will be more to come from Dargan and his teammates during their final three regular season games. “I think we have some playmakers,” he said. said. “At times we’ve made the plays and at times we’ve let some get away. We’re hopeful that down the stretch we make a lot more of those plays.” While the effort will be lauded, the Ducks still have three games left to go. Utah awaits down in Salt Lake City, giving the Ducks another opportunity to test their toughness on the road, where they’ve given up plenty of yards to quality opponents. But with an effort like tonight, it’ll be tough to stop this version of the defense down the stretch.
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