EUGENE -- It seems as though each week Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has been saddled with another burden born from an injury. Cornerback Jackie Bates, linebacker Brent Haberly and now, defensive tackle Cole Linehan, have sustained possible season-ending injuries in consecutive games. The loss of Linehan thins an already diluted defensive line that now
has 261-pound sophomore Michael Speed as a second-team tackle. For No. 11 Oregon, a team struggling to stop the run, the last thing it needed was to lose another defensive lineman. It's enough to leave Aliotti wondering how the Ducks can stop any offense, rushing or passing. "I'm concerned about both, really," he said. "But yeah, we have to slow the run down as best we
can." Oregon ranks ninth in the Pacific-10 Conference in rushing defense, allowing 163.8 yards per game, and is 94th of 119 Division I-A teams against the run. Oregon's opponent Saturday, No. 16 California, hasn't stonewalled its opponents on the ground, either, giving up 153.8 yards rushing per game.
But the Golden Bears' standout running back, Marshawn Lynch, has averaged 7.0 yard per carry and could see a heavy workload this week against Oregon's battered line. Despite the defense's injury woes, the Ducks for the most part have stood strong and rank fourth in the conference in total offense, allowing 309 yards per game. But what's most telling is that Oregon has allowed 20 points per game, third-fewest in the Pac-10. "Those things aren't really
important," Ducks coach Mike Bellotti said of the yards his team has allowed. "What's important are points." The question is whether that trend can continue with the injuries. "Do I think we're going to improve this week?," Bellotti said. "Probably not against the run, in that regard simply
because they have a really good running back." Some help could be on the way. Defensive tackle Jeremy Gibbs might return from an ankle injury that forced him to sit out the team's 48-13 win Saturday at Arizona State. Defensive end Victor Filipe also could return soon after missing the first four games with a dislocated elbow. When they return, Oregon could be back in business up front. But there has been some promise revealed in their absence. Sophomore Nick Reed is starting at defensive end in place of Filipe and Matt Toeaina, who must play inside
exclusively because of injuries at the tackle position. "It's tough to watch your friends go down, but I'm glad to get an opportunity to play," Reed said. Dexter Manley II saw extensive time against Arizona State and had three sacks, a performance that earned him national defensive
player-of-the-week honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation. "I always knew I could do that, contribute to the team a lot," Manley said. But whereas Reed and Manley provide speed and pass rushing ability, neither is particularly strong against the run. "We're going to come together as a D-line and get better, and we're going to stop the run," Manley said. Said Reed: "That's definitely something we need to take personally. Stopping the run, however, isn't all on the front four. Reed said the linemen and the linebackers must work together better to fill holes and prevent long runs. Linebacker Blair Phillips said the team needs to perform better fundamentally. "If they don't break any plays, (Lynch) can't get in the end zone," Phillips said. Stopping the run has not proven imperative. The Sun Devils' top two running backs combined for 158 yards on 25 carries. But the Sun Devils were limited to 33 yards passing, and Oregon ran away with an easy win. "As long as we win the game," Aliotti said, "that's the main thing."
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Oregonian: Ducks' defense hurting at stopping running game
Posted by Dave at 12:47 AM