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Oregon Football: Defensive Dilemma

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State
Oct 1, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Gerard Wicks (23) score a touchdown against Oregon Ducks defensive lineman Rex Manu (47) during the first half at Martin Stadium. 
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no defense for how bad the ducks defense has been this season. At this point, the early season jitters should be done and dusted. The new defensive system that Brady Hoke brought in should be resonating. Saturday night in Pullman the ducks defense demonstrated why they are ranked 120th in the country in yards allowed this season: fundamentals. Or should we say lack of fundamentals. The ducks simply do not tackle well, and time and again fail to fill the proper gaps. They let Mike Leach’s patented air raid offense rush for 280 yards and 6 touchdowns. The defensive tune-up that Brady Hoke was brought in to do at Oregon is seeming more and more like a project that will take years. Hoke will have to change the culture of how the ducks defend. A culture that has been quietly building over Oregon’s recent years of success.

Oregon has never been known for its defense. But in past years, defensive struggles weren’t nearly as prominent. When you win football games people don’t ask questions. The defense could allow large quantities of yards and the ducks would still find a way to win. This is because they had one of the best offenses in college football every year. In 2012, the offense scored 49.5 points per game for crying out loud.

This year things are different. The offense has struggled which has brought the defensive problems more to light. When you look at the duck’s offense it may not be the things they are doing wrong, but more so the things they aren’t doing at all. In this week’s loss penalties were not the issue. The issue was also not turning the ball over. The offense just struggled to move the ball efficiently, something that is a lot harder to fix.

It may be time to look toward the future. Oregon coaches are very happy about the development homegrown quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert represents a chance to break the vicious cycle of dependence on a graduate transfer at quarterback. If Herbert is given the chance to get his feet wet in the college game this year, he hopefully can begin to lead the offense back to its usual perennial prowess in the upcoming years. Herbert also has no chance to redshirt so there is no reason to not play the Sheldon High School alum.

Though not even half way into the season, the year is looking more and more like a season to rebuild for the ducks. And this isn’t all bad. College football allows you to rebound exceptionally after a bad season. After going 3-9 in 2012, the Auburn Tigers went on to make the national championship the very next year. In order for such a stark change to happen in one year the ducks need to start preparing for next season now. That means each game they need to improve in some aspect of the game. Defensively they need to be more precise in their tackling and spacing, and offensively they need to begin to consistently move the ball.