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Oregon secondary looks to take away Colorado's passing game



If there’s one noticeable difference for Oregon’s defense in 2011, it’s in the number of takeaways — or lack thereof.

During the Ducks’ undefeated regular season a year ago, they led the league in turnover margin (plus-13), as well as interceptions (21) and pass defense efficiency (104.0)@@2010 pac12 stats@@. This year they continue to lead the Pac-12 in pass defense efficiency (112.9), but are sixth in interceptions (5) and eighth in turnover margin (-1)@@2011 pac12 stats@@.

Oregon cornerback Troy Hill breaks up a pass from Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler in the fourth quarter of Oregon's 41-27 victory over Arizona State. The Ducks' secondary, while effective, has produced significantly fewer big plays this season. (Aaron Marineau/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Considering some of the quarterbacks Oregon has faced to date — LSU’s Jarrett Lee, Arizona’s Nick Foles and Arizona State’s Brock [email protected]@all CE@@ — the number of takeaways hasn’t necessarily been the most important statistic. The Ducks have given up more than 1,400 yards through the air and 17 total touchdowns (eight passing), but have scored 40 [email protected]@all CE@@ of their own in a fraction of the playing time.

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to get turnovers,” said senior cornerback Anthony [email protected]@CE@@, who intercepted Osweiler late in the fourth quarter to end the game last weekend. “But we’ve kind of dropped balls and gave up things. We want to give our offense as many chances as we can.”

Though it has gone relatively unmentioned this season, Oregon’s secondary has been a model of consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Gildon and Terrance [email protected]@CE@@ have started all six games at corner, as has Eddie [email protected]@CE@@ at rover, and free safety John [email protected]@CE@@ has missed only one game with a minor leg injury and still leads the team in tackles (37)@@goducks@@. His backup, sophomore Avery [email protected]@CE@@, is fifth on the team with 27 [email protected]@CE@@ and Gildon follows closely behind with 20 [email protected]@CE@@ to his credit.

“Oregon — it’s not just their offense, it’s their whole team,” Colorado head coach Jon Embree said to CUBuffs.com. “The thing that jumps out about them is their speed.”

Although Mitchell and junior reserve Cliff [email protected]@CE@@ lead the team with six passes defended [email protected]@CE@@, the Ducks have done an admirable job as a whole in the category with 47 [email protected]@CE@@. Without a doubt, the team would like to see a few more of those land in Oregon hands instead of on the turf, but the effort has impressed head coach Chip Kelly thus far.

“Overall, I was very pleased (against Arizona State),” Kelly said. “We’re one of the top teams in the country in pass defense efficiency right now, so I’m pleased with how our secondary is playing.”

Oregon faces another proven quarterback in Colorado’s Tyler [email protected]@CE@@ this week, though the Buffaloes’ offense hasn’t been effective running or passing the ball this season. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Hansen is known for his strong arm but also has the speed to beat a defense with his feet when need be.

“Colorado’s offense, just like every offense in the Pac-12, has a lot of weapons,” Gildon said. “(Hansen) can throw from hash to hash, and other quarterbacks can’t make those throws. So we’ve got to be on top of our game.”

For the season, Oregon is allowing 413.8 yards of offense per [email protected]@CE@@ — 11th in the Pac-12, ahead of Arizona’s [email protected]@CE@@ — but have held opponents to just 16 total [email protected]@CE@@, which trails only Stanford (8) and Utah (15)@@both CE@@ for the league minimum.

Gildon credits the Oregon offense for keeping the defense in top physical shape in practice each week, adding that the secondary rarely gets tired late in the game against teams that huddle frequently.

“They definitely have some good athletes back there,” Hansen said to CUBuffs.com. “Some fast guys, some big guys. So we’re going to have to prepare for those types of players.”

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