The Oregon Ducks defense has a unique challenge in front of them and will have the opportunity to accomplish what no other Pac-12 team this season has done just yet.
Containing Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson.
The 5’10”, 217-pound junior running back has recorded back-to-back-to-back 100+ rushing yard performances so far this 2020 season. Against Washington State in week one, Jefferson put up 120 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns. Oregon State also utilized the back in the passing game targeting him five times for 50 yards. The following week at Washington, he put up 133 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
Last Saturday, it didn’t take long for Jefferson to have an impact. He broke for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game against Cal and finished with 196 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.
“Look at last week, comes right out of the gates and goes to the house,” said Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. “Great vision. Great vision in the outside zone. Is patient, is a very patient runner and uses his vision very well and when he hits that thing, he hits it. He’s a bigger back that has that explosive step then he hits the crease and he hits it.
“He’s got the speed to take it the distance so, as always, it starts with being really disciplined and physical up front to control our gaps and be able to move with that outside scheme zones that they run.”
Currently, the Ducks defense is in the middle of the Pac-12 conference in terms of rushing yards allowed to opposing offenses (188 yards per game). Oregon gave up 197 yards on the ground against the Stanford Cardinal in week one and then only 100 on the ground to Washington State in week two.
Last Saturday, however, was not so good.
The Ducks gave up 267 rushing yards to the UCLA Bruins and senior running back Demetric Felton had 34 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns. That needs to drastically improve for the Ducks with Jefferson up next.
How will the Ducks do just that? Junior inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia has the answer.
“We’re going to have to work on tackling. That’s our biggest downfall right now. With a back like him, he’s very physical, he can move, he’s very shifty and he’s patient behind his o-line. His o-line moves very well so they give him time to make a move. It starts up front with the d-line and then just have the linebackers and secondary come downhill to make the tackle.”
“He’s got everything the great backs have,” said Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal. “Starts with great vision and then you go and start talking about his speed and his power, his explosiveness. He sets up blocks really, really well. He can make you miss, he can run over you, he can run through you, he is effective out of the backfield catching the football. He blocks really, really well. He’s got an excellent offensive line…
“I think he himself, with the gifts that he has, plus the scheme and supporting cast, make for a really challenging offense to stop.”
It will take a group effort to bring Jefferson to the ground and it just may be the difference maker in the outcome on Friday.
Welcome to the next chapter of this historic rivalry that dates back to 1894.
The No. 9 Ducks (3-0) and Beavers (1-2) will kickoff at 4:30 PM (PT) on ESPN at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.