Thursday, September 27, 2012

In depth: Oregon-WSU defensive match-ups

The Oregon Ducks (4-0, 1-0) take to the road for the first time in 2012 this Saturday heading to Seattle to take on the Washington State Cougars (2-2, 0-1) at Century Link Field.

Though both head coaches are known more for their offense, Chip Kelly has the Duck defense flying around and making plays. After a shutout in their conference opener, can the Ducks repeat their defensive masterpiece? Check out our exclusive in depth look at the defensive match-ups for Saturday nights game.

Coming into the 2012 season, there was renewed optimism in Pullman about the Cougar program and the direction it was headed. With former Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos at the helm, the Cougars hired Mike Leach in hopes of bringing his Texas Tech "Air Raid" magic to the Palouse. The results, though, have not met the expectations of many Cougar fans early as Washington State has struggled to adopt Mike Leach's pass oriented spread offense. Last weekend, Washington State had a 31-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter with possession of the football inside the red zone, yet found a way to lose to Colorado. The 35-34 loss has emphasized just how difficult the transition of a new coach will be for the Cougars.

Oregon comes into the contest off of what is by far their best defensive effort of the season; an effort that ranks with some of the best defensive performances in school history. Oregon held an Arizona team averaging 596 yards per game and over 46 points per game to 332 yards en route to a 49-0 shutout of the Wildcats. The performance was enough to move the Ducks up to No. 2 in the rankings.

Defense has never been a hallmark of Mike Leach teams and the Cougars are having their share of defensive struggles again this season. Washington State runs a defense similar to Oregon with a 3-4 hybrid system. In this continuing series, Duck Sports Authority now takes a look at the defensive match-ups for Oregon and Washington State.


WSU: The Cougars run a 3-4 base defense which leaves them starting one defensive tackle. Getting the nod against the Ducks will be Ioane Gauta (6-3, 305) a junior college transfer in his first year with the Cougars. Gauta has played well early for the Cougars with 11 total tackles through four games including two tackles for loss. Behind Gauta will be Kalafitoni Pole (6-1, 277) a sophomore who started three games last season. Early this year, he has played well in his four appearances notching 7 total tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss.

The third nose tackle for the Cougars is a redshirt freshman who has not yet appeared in a game for Washington State.

Oregon: Oregon brings a wealth of experience at defensive tackle. Starters Wade Keliikipi (6-3, 295) and Isaac Remington (6-4, 301) both saw action as starters last season with Keliikipi starting the final 11 games. Keliikipi recorded a career high 5 tackles in the win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl while Remington recorded 31 total tackles on the season. So far this season Remington leads the defensive tackles with 9 total tackles and 3 tackles for loss and one sack. After a good performance against Arizona Keliikipi has raised his season total to 6 tackles.

The real difference for Oregon will come in the reserves as Oregon not only returns all the defensive tackles from last season, that depth took a hit with the injury to Jared Ebert (6-5, 260) who was playing well early after redshirting last year. Ricky Heimuli (6-4, 305) showing promise with 22 total tackles in his 14 reserve appearances last season for the Ducks has also recorded 4 tackles in 2012.

Deforrest Buckner (6-7, 265) a true freshman from Hawaii has played well this season notching 7 total tackles and 1 tackle for loss in the first three games of 2012. The Ducks are also versatile here as Taylor Hart can move inside if needed.

During the first three games the two-deep defensive line has been dominant.

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