Defense On Display Again in Spring Game

A 21-14 victory by the Green Team marked a culmination of solid defensive play this spring. Fans were treated to something they haven't seen very much of recently at Autzen; a low-scoring defensive battle.

The defense set the tone for the scrimmage from the get go when defensive back Chad Peppars made an explosive tackle on returner Kenjon Barner on the opening kickoff. The hit drew the first of many eruptions from the Autzen crowd. Peppars was also one of the top performers for both defenses, and he was the leading tackler in the game with ten total tackles.

Defensively, the line stuffed the run throughout much of the game. The green team's defensive tackles Simi Toeaina and Brandon Bair were fixtures in the backfield as they held the white rushing attack to a total of one rushing yard on 28 attempts. The two also combined for one quarter of the green team's twelve tackles for a loss. Neither team recorded a rushing touchdown during today's game.

Bair and Toeaina's play inside for the green team was not just highlighted by the amount of time they spent in the backfield, but how they were able to help neutralize running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount was limited to just 26 yards on nine carries. He was also unable to break one of his trademark long runs, having his longest run of the day only be a gain of eight yards.

It was a bit of a coming out party for linebacker Bryson Littlejohn, who joined the team just prior to spring practice. The junior outside linebacker tallied a total of seven tackles and cemented a great spring introduction to Oregon football.

"I flew around, and I started getting more comfortable with the defense…I think I made a couple of nice plays," Littlejohn said.

His play in the spring game and throughout the spring has really impressed some of his linebacker mates, especially fellow outside linebacker Eddie Pleasant.

"Oh my gosh that dude already looks like a starter to me. He's incredible. He flies around. He's a big physical kid and he's got all the tools to be a big physical linebacker," Pleasant commented.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the defenses' play today was their ability to do something they hadn't all spring; contain Jamere Holland.

The speedy wide receiver was matched up against the presumptive MVP of the spring in Walter Thurmond. Holland has gotten the best of just about every Oregon defensive back this spring, but today the burner was unable to get the best of the defense. He recorded just eight yards on three catches on the day. Holland nearly had two big plays, but was overthrown both times by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli after getting past safety T.J. Ward.

The defenses' play against the pass was less stellar than against the run. Neither defense had an interception although there was a combined five passes deflection. The number of sacks was also on the small side as both teams combined for only five sacks. Defensive end Kenny Rowe was the sack leader on the day, recording two sacks.

Going into the spring, defensive concerns had centered around the defensive line and their replacing of three starters. Yet this perceived weakness developed into arguably one of the strongest areas of the defense. Nothing seemed to cement this unit's play today better than keeping one of the nation's best rushing attacks from last season out of the end zone for the entire game.

From the defensive side of the ball, this spring has been a success. They had a near perfect record in the competition days and a probable Spring Team MVP in Walter Thurmond. As Defensive Coordinator Nick Allioti put it perfectly;

"Overall it was a very good spring."

Note: The defensive players who sat out of today's game due to injuries were Marvin Johnson, John Boyett, Anthony Gildon, Willie Glasper, Titus Jackson and Talmadge Jackson.


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