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Defensive Keys to the Game for No. 4 Oregon vs. Stony Brook

The Ducks defense gave up over 600 yards of offense against Ohio State, but made some crucial stops en route to the victory.

On paper, No. 4 Oregon's matchup against Stony Brook shouldn't be one to sneeze at, which is exactly why Mario Cristobal and his staff should be preparing the exact same way. The last thing they need one week after a program-boosting win against Ohio State is a blunder against an FCS program that hasn't been a threat for three or four years.

Still, the Ducks will need to key in on a few things to make sure that they don't come flat out of the gates on Saturday.

1. Get off the field early in drives

The Ducks defense was on the field for a while against the Buckeyes, who racked up 612 total yards of offense. Thankfully, several of those long drives (the Buckeyes had five drives of at least eight plays) resulted in fourth-down stops or punts.

Tim DeRuyter's group should strive to be on the field as little as possible. They must force turnovers and stop the run on third and short situations. Stony Brook runs the ball a ton, which can tire out a defense. Getting tackles in the backfield and creating third-and-long scenarios where quarterback Tyquell Fields has to throw the ball is a win for Oregon.

Fields has been a wildly inconsistent quarterback for the Seawolves. The fifth-year grad student is often inaccurate with his passes, as his career completion percentage is 51.0% and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 21-14 (1-2 this year).

Expect to see a lot of pressure from the Ducks front seven. The Stony Brook offensive line hasn't seen a defensive front like Oregon's, and it hasn't been in an environment like Autzen Stadium. It could be a messy performance from the Seawolves.

2. Play clean and smart defense

The Ducks defense should be in control of this game, but they can't gift the Seawolves anything they didn't earn. DeRuyter's team has been disciplined and hasn't committed many penalties, but they have made some mental errors, including on Ohio State's touchdown to Garrett Wilson when Mykael Wright was looking at his wristband at the snap of the ball.

The Ducks can't beat themselves and allow the Seawolves to hang around due to their own mistakes. They have had games in the past (2018 vs. San Jose State, 2015 vs. Eastern Washington) that were against inferior opponents where they had some trouble. If the defense looks shaky against Stony Brook's below-average offense, there will be a wave of concern around the unit after the game.

3. Consistency from the Linebackers

Justin Flowe and Dru Mathis will both be out a while. That said, all eyes turn to Keith Brown to man the WILL spot, and the true freshman looked solid when he got his first start against Ohio State, which also served as his first college snaps.

This game will be a great opportunity for him to get reps with the ones, build some confidence and chemistry with the starters, and get an overall feel for the speed of the game.

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Noah Sewell and the rest of the young linebackers must continue to improve in pass coverage. Jake Haener and C.J. Stroud lit up the Ducks linebackers and secondary, but Tyquell Fields is not on the level of either of those guys. Guys like Jabril McNeil, Jeffrey Bassa, and Micah Roth will likely get some playing time on Saturday, and it will be interesting to see how the group gels after losing two starters.

Given that the Ducks will likely be benching the starters after the third quarter or so, the Ducks defense will have a lot of new faces in the waning minutes getting thrown into their first action as college football players. We'll get to see just how deep the roster is and how good of developers Mario Cristobal and Tim DeRuyter are.

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