Going to the game in Utah on Saturday, both teams will look to capitalize on their strengths, one being defense, the other being offense. Utah boasts one of the most physical rushing defenses in the country, and Oregon prides itself on establishing a running game.
Those identities will come to a head on Oregon’s offensive line, which has shifted around due to injuries during the course of the season. With center Jake Hanson suspended for the first half of play after a targeting call against UCLA, Calvin Throckmorton’s versatility on the offensive line will be called upon again.
Steven Jones, a freshman who played on intermittent snaps against UCLA, will start at left tackle on Saturday. Throckmorton will start at center, as he did when Hanson left in the second half against UCLA.
“The first couple plays you could tell he was a little bit nervous, but there’e no excuse to be nervous on your first play in front of 60,000 people right?” Cristobal said laughing. “But once he settled in, he did what we thought he could do. He played with power, with poise, and with balance.”
Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo emphasized the need to be physical against Utah’s defense after practice on Tuesday.
“You see a true freshman starting at left tackle, just like when Penei [Sewell] was there, that’s just an understated role, I think a lot of people don’t understand how hard that is,” Arroyo said. “Steven did an awesome job.”
Oregon will need a balanced attack against a team that relies heavily on its defense. Prior to UCLA, the Ducks offense struggled against defenses that statistically were not good. Oregon needs the keep the connection going between quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, which is gaining national attention.
“I just try to get it to the open receivers, but fortunately Dillon is always open,” Herbert said. “He’s able to identify the coverage and adjust, and do things to get him open.”
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august