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Ducks' defense gets defensive after loss

EUGENE — Focus and finish were the themes for the Oregon Ducks' defense this week.

The group was embarrassed by penalties and the 21 third-quarter points the Ducks gave up in a 31-24 loss to Arizona last week. The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) are determined not to suffer the same fate this Saturday on the road against No. 18 UCLA.

The Bruins (4-1, 1-1) are also coming off a loss — to Utah 30-28 at the Rose Bowl last Saturday night. The Bruins fell 10 places in the rankings following the loss, while the Ducks also dropped from No. 2 to No. 12.

"I think guys just need to do their job and focus on that," Oregon linebacker Tony Washington said. "I think in games like that when emotions are running wild, guys just forget what's going on and they need to focus on their task and do their task. If everybody controls what they're supposed to do, we'll be in a good position."

Washington was at the center of a controversial call on Arizona's game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. He bowed to the Autzen Stadium crowd after sacking Arizona's freshman quarterback on third-and-8.

Because of the penalty, the officials moved the ball half the distance to the goal line with an automatic first down. Three plays later, the Wildcats scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Washington took responsibility for the penalty and moved on to the Bruins.

"The season's not over," he said. "We're only five games in and still have a long way to go. I just want the guys to pick their heads up and keep moving toward the ultimate goal and that's being the best Oregon team we can be."

The defense was hurt by other penalties, including pass interference calls on cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill.

The Ducks were also hurt in the loss to Arizona by an apparent left foot or ankle injury to starting defensive end Arik Armstead. He left the game in the first half and never returned.

Oregon's policy is not to discuss injuries, but Armstead said this week he hopes to return on Saturday.

"Even after we lost on Thursday I said we still have a lot to accomplish, still have goals and everything we want is still obtainable, we just got to take care of business," said Armstead.

Oregon's defense gave up 495 total yards of offense to the Wildcats, a week after giving up 499 to Washington State — including 435 yards passing by prolific Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday. The Ducks escaped Pullman with a 38-31 victory.

Oregon, which has a new defensive coordinator this season in promoted linebackers coach Don Pellum, is ranked in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing opponents an average of 453.8 yards per game.

The Ducks will face a UCLA offense that is averaging 36 points and 465.4 yards a game. Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley is averaging 262 yards passing per game with nine touchdowns.

"That guy's good," Washington said. "We've seen him the past couple of years. The dude can throw the rock, he understands the offense and most of all he has some great weapons. We have to be sound as a defense and come out and attack."

The Ducks' straight path to college football's first playoff may have taken a detour, but after the shake-up in college football last weekend with losses for five top-10 teams, they are not yet out of it by any means.

Cal is atop the Pac-12 North standings because the Golden Bears (4-1, 2-1) have played three league games, while Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State are all 1-1 in league play. Arizona tops the South Division as the only undefeated team in the conference.

"Every loss is a test of our character to see how we respond," Ekpre-Olomu said. "Not every team in college football is going to go undefeated so everyone has to learn from their losses and get better."

Oregon linebacker Tony Washington (91) sacks Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon (12) in their Oct. 2 game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. AP PHOTO