Defense Declaws Wildcat Offense

The Ducks are once again conference champions, much of that is thanks to a dominant defensive showing.

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Two weeks ago Arizona came into Autzen Stadium and stunned the Ducks. Behind a strong showing from Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson, the Wildcats were able to topple the Ducks and set themselves up for a rematch in Santa Clara for the conference crown. Wilson terrorized the Ducks to a tune of 92 yards and two touchdowns in October.

The defense made certain their second meeting made for a better sequel for Duck fans. Oregon limited the Wildcats to 224 total yards and had the Wildvats limited to 2 first downs through the entireity of the first half. A consistent diet of backfield pressure and a stiff performance from the front 7 left the Wildcats hapless as they turned to backups Jesse Scroggins as well as Jerrard Randall at the quarterback position in the second half.

Many had been concerned about the defense’s ability to play against a solid running back like Wilson and the run-pass option had tortured the Ducks for two seasons. None of that mattered, Friday night as Oregon repeatedly dominated the point of attack and forced Arizona into unfavorable situations offensively.

“Our defense did a tremendous job of stopping a very high powered offense and limiting them to minus yards rushing [in the first half,]” said Head Coach Mark Helfrich.

The Ducks were not without gaffs in their otherwise dominant win. A blown coverage allowed Caylib Jones to get free up the sideline and score a 69 yard touchdown. The throw and run accounted for all but 10 of starting quarterback Jesse Scroggin’s passing yards on the day. Oregon would maintain dominance until the last play of the game saw Randall score from 25 yards out. Remove those two plays from Arizona’s output and Oregon limited the Wildcats to 130 yards through the course of the game.

This was the best performance Oregon’s defense has had all season and it came at a time when they absolutely had to have it. The offense started slow out of the gates and while a 6-0 lead rarely feels insurmountable, the way the Oregon defense played against Arizona made it feel almost that way.

“I’m most proud of these young men because they played their best game in the last game. A lot of times you will have a great game in the middle of the season and the rest of them are okay. They played their best when their best was needed and I’m really proud of them for that,” said defensive coordinator Don Pellum.

The Ducks had four sacks, seven tackles for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble on a kick return. It was a picture perfect performance from a unit who has heard all season long that they were the weak link in the chain in Eugene.

“What was good today is we were really ready. This week of practice was unreal. We had our meeting last night and you could tell that these guys weren’t just ready, but they were ready ready. I think the kids were ready to play those guys again,” said Pellum.

The Ducks have locked up their appearance in the college football playoff and now get to sit back and wait to see who shuffles out to fill the other three positions in the playoff. If Oregon continues to follow up their performances with similar outings, the Ducks may get to have a celebration in Dallas like the one they had in Santa Clara.

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