Duck defense is gaining confidence
EUGENE — Oregon's defense built some confidence in Saturday's 44-28 win over California.
"I feel like last week was one of our better games and as the weeks go on, we keep building," senior linebacker Tyson Coleman said.
Oregon allowed 28 points and 432 yards against Cal, which was averaging 35.8 points and 490.1 yards entering the game. The Ducks had been allowing an average of 38.4 points and 496.9 yards per game.
"We got better defensively and practiced good this week," senior linebacker Rodney Hardrick said. "I am excited to see how this plays out."
The Ducks (6-3, 4-2) head to Stanford (8-1, 7-0) Saturday at 4:30 p.m.. The Cardinal are ranked No. 7 in this week's College Football Playoff rankings.
The Cardinal's balanced offense led by quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Christian McCaffrey is a switch from pass-happy California.
"Hogan and McCaffrey and their front have done so many good things in so many different ways," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "They are throwing it and running it, the element of run-pass is alive and well. They are difficult to defend."
Hogan is completing 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,831 yards and 16 touchdowns in nine games while also running for 226 yards and three scores. McCaffrey has run for at least 100 yards in seven straight games behind an offensive line that goes an average of nearly 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds.
"The big thing when you prepare for Stanford is you have to over coach pad level and getting off blocks," UO defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. "They have a very tough offensive line that does a great job with pad level and rubbing off and getting people out of position. The first thing you think of with Stanford is great pad level. You have to do a great job separating and getting off blocks."
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said that is particularly important in short-yardage situations.
"They get in short-yardage and get in a four-point stance and get real low," he said. "They all weigh about 320 pounds. All the guys on the defensive line and even the outside linebackers have to stay low."
Buckner is explaining that to some of the young defensive linemen, including sophomores Henry Mondeaux and Austin Maloata and freshmen Jalen Jelks and Canton Kaumatule.
"Some of the young guys are starting to grow up throughout the season," Buckner said. "We're excited to see who stands out this game."
It has been a similar situation in the secondary where sophomores Tyree Robinson and Arrion Springs are expected to start at cornerback with sophomore Charles Nelson at safety. The backup cornerbacks are sophomore Ty Griffin, a converted quarterback, and freshman Ugo Amadi while freshmen Khalil Oliver and Glen Ihenacho are reserves at safety.
"The young defensive backs did a good job, they have stepped up and are maturing throughout the season," Coleman said. "You can see game-by-game how much they change and evolve. They really understand what is going on. It helps to have those guys back there playing confident."