Oregon’s defense will finally be as healthy as they've been since the Fresno State game this week, with Kayvon Thibodeaux back from injury and playing a dominant second half last week, as well as Mase Funa and DJ James back as well. This sets up a showdown against a potent UCLA offense led by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.
Here's what the defense needs to do to put together a solid performance against the Bruins.
1. Contain the Run Game
Oregon needs to prioritize this over everything else this week. UCLA has a two-headed monster in Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown that has wreaked havoc on defenses so far this season and they can truly do it all. They are physical runners who will be hard to bring down both inside and outside the tackles. The Bruins average 219 rushing yards per game, and for the Ducks to win this game they will need to hold up front especially with multiple tight end sets that UCLA loves to deploy.
2. Limit Penalties
Oregon’s penalty issues continued last week vs. Cal, with some personal fouls after plays that are completely avoidable, and really important drives have been given new life thanks to penalties. These are plays that cannot happen against opponents like UCLA. If the Ducks want to beat the Bruins, they’ll need to play much more like they did against Ohio State. The team only had four penalties for 35 yards in the upset, compared to the performance against Cal, when the Ducks gave up 82 free yards on nine penalties.
3. Keep DTR in the Pocket
Containing the run game comes with keeping UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the pocket. DTR is well known for his wheels and is more than capable of taking off and running when nothing is there in the passing game. Especially with pass rushers Thibodeaux and Bradyn Swinson back, keeping DTR in the pocket and not letting him escape is going to be vital to limiting big plays.
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Oregon gave up a season-high 208 rushing yards against Utah and gets another tough challenge Saturday.
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