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  • Ducks face challenge in turning over K-State's Klein

  • Oregon leads the nation in passes intercepted, but now comes the real challenge: picking off a pass thrown by Kansas State's Collin Klein.
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  • Oregon leads the nation in passes intercepted, but now comes the real challenge: picking off a pass thrown by Kansas State's Collin Klein.
    He's thrown only seven all season. Those, combined with three lost fumbles by the Wildcats, make 10 total turnovers, ranking Kansas State third in the nation for fewest turnovers entering the Fiesta Bowl against the Ducks.
    "These guys take care of the ball," Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.
    On the other side of that equation, Kansas State hasn't faced a team like Oregon, which is tied for first in the nation with Kent State in takeaways, with 38 each entering their bowl games. For Oregon, that's a school record, exceeding the 37 takeaways in 2010.
    "I'm hoping we can get about four more," Aliotti said of the current total. "I'd like to reach 40, and I think that would help us win the game."
    With the turnover statistic being one coaches often point to as being crucial in outcomes, the contrast of the Ducks and Wildcats is certainly apparent. Kansas State rarely loses the football, while the Ducks are as good as there is at taking it away.
    What gives, or is taken, on Jan. 3 at Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., figures to play an important role in the outcome.
    "You can never predict turnovers," Aliotti said, recalling a query early in the season about why the Ducks hadn't created more.
    "I said, 'they'll come,'" Aliotti recalled. "You turn around, and I'm proud of this, we lead the country in (total) takeaways and interceptions."
    The 24 interceptions for Oregon are one off the school record, first set in 1947 and then tied by the Ducks in 1949 and 1968. A full team of 11 different Ducks have contributed to that total, with four each by cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and linebacker Kiko Alonso.
    "I just think that all of us, we watch a lot of (video), we all study, we do things that will help us in game situations," Ekpre-Olomu said. "You've got to put yourself in position to make a play."
    Once there, though, not every defensive player has the hands of a receiver to catch the football. Remember, more than one football coach has joked that defensive backs are often former receivers who didn't have good hands.
    "That's just an old tale," UO safety Brian Jackson said. "I just think that as a unit, we've improved catching the ball."
    Still, there must be a secret to this season's success. The Ducks have seven more interceptions than last year, and in the previous decade, Oregon's interception total only reached above 20 two other times.
    "It's just the way that we play," Jackson said. "We run to the ball all the time and we're in the right spot at the right time, and not only that, we finish on the ball.
    "We practice finishing, so that when the ball is near us, we can catch it. I can't say there's a secret or anything. It's just instinct. If you know where the ball is, you've just got to come down with it."
    The challenge will be to have those opportunities against Kansas State. Klein's seven interceptions came in 272 attempts, and three of his interceptions came in one game, a 52-24 loss to Baylor.
    Two other notable statistics stand out from that day. Klein threw a season-high 50 passes in that game, more than double his average for the other 11 games, as the Wildcats were limited to 76 rushing yards, their season low.
    Baylor obviously made Kansas State's offense one-dimensional, which is likely to be a goal of the Ducks. Much of Oregon's success in doing so will hinge on whether the Ducks can limit the running of Klein, who rushed for 890 yards, two yards shy of being his team's leading rusher.
    "I don't like quarterbacks who can extend plays with their legs," Aliotti said. "I like guys who stand back there and don't move. I'm impressed by Collin Klein. He's going to be a handful."
    All of which seems to make him an even better passer, if a defense is too concerned about his running. Even a team with as many interceptions as Oregon could find it a major challenge to pick off Klein.
    "He doesn't force it in there," Aliotti said. "He's very smart with his throws and the throws are safe and if he doesn't like it, he tucks it and runs. That's the part I don't like."
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