STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the run defense: When Oregon lines up on defense in the 122nd meeting of the Civil War, the Ducks can expect a strong dose of Beavers running back Jermar Jefferson, one of the top freshmen running backs in the country.
Jefferson has been a revelation for Oregon State this season, running for 1,316 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year. His 6.04 yards per rush and 119.64 yards per game both rank third in the Pac-12.
"Obviously the back has garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of Jefferson. "As a freshman he's widely considered one of the best freshmen in the country… the offensive line has done a tremendous job for him."
He has rushed for 100+ yards in seven of his 11 games, with two games going for more than 200 yards, including a career-high 254 yards against Arizona State. He’s only scored touchdowns in four games this year but against Southern Utah and Washington State, he scored four times in each game.
Oregon has struggled defending the run in conference play, giving up 179 yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt, numbers that rank third-worst in the Pac-12. But, last week against the conference’s leading rusher in Eno Benjamin, the Ducks held him and the Sun Devils to 142 yards, their second lowest total of the Pac-12 season.
"What we've been talking about these past few weeks, it gets tough sometimes, but you got to stay consistent and keep pushing," Oregon linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr. said after the game. "That's all we preached this whole week, is making sure we re-established our physicality and making sure that we compete.”
The Ducks have talent at all of the stages to stop the run, but what makes it work is if each individual player does his job — with consistency being the main issue.
Nose tackle Jordon Scott, who had a rough game against Utah two weeks ago, rebounded with a typically stout performance against Arizona State. Scott was disruptive, forcing the Sun Devils to double-team him, which freed up linebacker Troy Dye. Dye finished with 12 tackles, most of which came against Benjamin to keep him from explosive plays.
“Great football player that's instinctive and obviously extremely productive… in my opinion he's just scratching the surface,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “He does a great job tackling while blitzing, which is difficult — you've got to hit certain gaps, you're going 100 miles per hour, you have to put a foot in the ground and redirect and get a guy on the ground.”
Oregon is no stranger to facing tough running backs, having played against four of the Pac-12’s top five rushers in its previous four games. Now the Ducks will get the chance to see how far they’ve come when the face Jefferson, one of the more well-rounded rushers in the conference.