Ducks

How Oregon’s defensive line can finally get to the quarterback against the Cal Bears

Ducks

Theme of the week for the Oregon Football program: Not letting the loss at Oregon State "beat you twice."

After a horrific 41-38 loss to the Beavers last Friday, the No. 23 Oregon Ducks (3-1) fell eight spots in the latest College Football Playoff rankings this week and dropped to No. 21 in the AP Poll. 

While season hopes of making the CFP are pretty much a slim-to-none chance at this point, the sky hasn’t fallen and the Ducks will look to bounce back on Saturday taking on the Cal Golden Bears (0-3) at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, CA.

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The Bears 2020 season has gone less than ideal.

Projected to be one of the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference and make a splash in national rankings, Cal has battled with COVID-related issues all season and has yet to claim its first win. The Bears have losses to UCLA (34-10), Oregon State (31-27) and Stanford (24-23). 

Redshirt junior quarterback Chase Garbers has completed 65-of-104 passes for 588 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions through three games this season.

“I don’t think their first game is any indication of what they are as a team,” said head coach Mario Cristobal on Wednesday. “I don’t even think they practiced together with the lines of scrimmage. You see their run go from 87 yards to their second game at a 120+ now at about 240 in their last game, so I see a very well organized, well coached and a tough, physical team that has speed and length at outside wide receiver, very versatile tight ends… 

 

“The quarterback is experienced and he’s an accurate, tough guy that does a great job with the offense.”

But the Oregon defensive line will have the opportunity to do something they haven’t done a good job at this season: get to the quarterback. 

The Duck with the most tackles for loss and sacks so far this season is freshman linebacker Noah Sewell, who has recorded five TFLs (-15 yards) and two sacks (-8.0 yards). Sophomore Kayvon Thibodeaux has just one sack for 11 yards and two quarterback hits. Junior linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia has one tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.

Simply put, the Oregon defense has had a tough time getting into the backfield in 2020.

But there is an opportunity to change that on Saturday.

Garbers is the most-sacked quarterback in the Pac-12 this season with 11 sacks in three games. 

“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” said defensive coordinator Andy Avalos on Monday. “But, again, it starts with me and making sure that we have a clear idea of what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it to create the consistency at the start of the week. And finish all the way through every single day, all the way through the week.

“And then when we do get into the game, it will build that confidence to rep it in the game exactly how we’ve repped it in practice. That’s our goal. We’ve had great meetings over the course of this weekend…

“We’re looking forward to getting back to the blueprint which starts with physicality and stopping the run game and committing ourselves to that as a whole.”

And it's not just getting to the quarterback, but also having an impact up front stopping the run game, something the Ducks defense hasn't done a good job of this season.

Kickoff between the Ducks and Bears is set for 4 p.m. (PT) in Berkeley, California.