(PHOTO) Oregon Ducks defensive lineman Alex Balducci (56) tackles USC Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) at Autzen Stadium. Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Balducci, 6-5, 305, is the nose tackle for a defense that’s had its share of ups and downs this last season. At times the defensive unit as a whole has had problems however, one constant on the defensive side of the ball has been the defensive front led by Balducci and fellow senior defensive end DeForest Buckner.
The pair played together in all 12 games, combined for 110 tackles, 21 tackles for loss including 13 sacks. The Alamo Bowl will be the pairs’ final game as Ducks and most likely as teammates. While it is very likely that Buckner will be taken on the first round of the NFL draft, Balducci’s future isn’t quite as clear though he does have a great interest in moving on to the next level.
Balducci came to Oregon from Central Catholic High School in Portland and will graduate in four years from the University. While admitting he is very interested in the possibility of turning pro, right now all his focus and energy is on the task at hand – playing TCU in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
While Oregon’s season may have rested on the play of quarterback Vernon Adams and the rest of the Oregon offense, and for many the reason why the Ducks went on an eight-game winning streak, what sometimes is lost is that the Duck defenders made some big plays on the field that sealed the deal for those six wins.
Part of the perception that Oregon had a poor season on defense come from the statistics that had the Ducks near the bottom of the conference in some key defense categories – yards and points allowed; the Ducks allowed 36.8 points per game and 480.3 yards per contest.
Yet sometimes, statistics alone can be misleading. For example, in the last game of the season against Oregon State, the Ducks had perhaps the best defensive half of the season allowing seven points and only 96 yards of offense. Yet in the second half, the Beavers exploded for 331 yards and 35 points. How could a great first half turn into such a porous second half?
Balducci believes that the team had a letdown at halftime and didn’t take the lowly Beavers seriously enough. The Beavers finished the season going 2-9 for year and 0-8 in conference play. During the week the Ducks had in Eugene in preparation for the bowl game, did the Ducks figure out what the problem was and more importantly, did they fix it?
In Balducci’s opinion the Oregon coaches did a good job identifying what went wrong against Oregon State, showing the players and training up so that when the Ducks step onto the field to face a dramatically different TCU team, the Duck defenders will be ready.
The Duck defenders worked hard on the defense game plan during the first week of the bowl preparation practices.
Oregon will have its hands full as the No. 13 Horned Frogs are an explosive team and one that can score quickly and often as evidenced by the 41.7 points per game average and the 564.3 yards per game of offense.
The Ducks are going to need every bit of Balducci’s hardnosed play and experience in order to stay competitive against TCU on January 2nd. In the Alamo Bowl.