EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
The No. 2 Ducks had possession of the ball fewer than 20 minutes in their opener against Nicholls State, meaning the defense shouldered its share of the work. That gave the coaching staff plenty to look at in assessing the side of the ball that often gets overlooked at speedy Oregon.
Overall, it looked good, though that unit should face a greater challenge as the Ducks visit Virginia on Saturday.
They won 66-3 last week against the lower-tier Colonels, who had 343 yards of total offense but averaged only 3.9 per play and never got inside Oregon's 10.
The Ducks (1-0), conversely, rolled to a school-record 772 yards in total offense. On Tuesday, they moved up a spot in the AP Top 25.
Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti tried to look at the game objectively.
"They made too many plays, I'll be honest with you," he said, but added: "It's interesting, you win 66-3 and we're sitting here trying to dissect (it). Overall, I'm pleased. The W's the biggest stat, the three points are the second-biggest stat, and when you look at the total plays, and I did look at it, it was 87 snaps for 343 yards. That's less than four yards a play. That's really good."
Oregon could have a tougher time against the Cavaliers (1-0), who came from behind to beat BYU 19-16 in last weekend's opener.
Virginia coach Mike London said the Ducks' athletic defense reminds him of the Green Bay Packers.
"Their team forces a lot of turnovers. They score a lot of touchdowns. And their two corners are probably the two best corner tandems in college football," he said. "What we're going to have to make sure we pay particular attention to is the ability of their linemen. Kind of the 3-4 defense we'll see it again. But they can run. Their whole team can run."
The Ducks had some considerable shoes to fill on defense this season, with the departure of top tacklers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso, as well as defensive end Dion Jordan, taken third overall in this spring's NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Against Nicholls State, weak side linebacker Derrick Malone led the Ducks with 11 tackles, six solo, and defensive end Tony Washington had seven total tackles, four solo, with a sack and a forced fumble.
Malone, who earned a starting job in fall camp, said he was pleased.
"That's the goal each and every week, be the best I can be every day," he said. "Just run hard and make plays. That's what I'm here to do and that's what I'll prepare to do."
The only thing that marred Oregon's defense in the opener was the targeting penalty that resulted in the ejection of starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell.
The penalty provided a teachable moment for the Ducks. But overall, new coach Mark Helfrich was happy with what he saw on defense. Helfrich, the team's offensive coordinator for the past four years, took over the helm when Chip Kelly departed for the NFL in January.
"I thought they played well. I think we got off to, collectively, a great start as a team. I also think we kind of let off the gas pedal in the second quarter for just a little bit," Helfrich said Tuesday. "But any time you hold a team to three points, that's a good thing."
The offense certainly didn't miss a beat with Helfrich taking over for Kelly, rushing for 500 yards.
Three players ran for more than 100, including sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. The second-year starter ran five times for 113 yards and two TDs while completing 12 of 21 passes for 234 yards and a score.
Virginia's offense did not perform nearly as well last week, held to 223 total yards and averaging 2.6 per rushing attempt. Sophomore David Watford ran 10 times for 10 yards and threw for only 114 despite completing 18 passes.
These schools are meeting for the first time.