High-flying No. 2 Ducks make visit to Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Oregon free safety Avery Patterson thinks Virginia’s chance to make history is just another day.
“It’s just another game really, nothing more special about it,” Patterson said of the No. 2 ranked Ducks’ visit to Scott Stadium on Saturday. “Just going out there to play another team.”
It’s all in the perspective.
The Cavaliers have never beaten a team ranked as high as No. 2, and are 2-17-1 in their history against teams in the top 5. Last time they hosted one, Southern Cal hammered them 52-7 in 2008.
And this Oregon team might be the best of them all. Last week, against second-tier Nicholls State, they scored 66 points and piled up 772 yards of offense while having possession for just 19:46.
Virginia got something of a warmup game in its 19-16 victory against BYU, which employs the same kind of hurry-up offense, but without the across-the-board speed and national contender credentials.
Nonetheless, Oregon’s first-year head coach, Mark Helfrich, was impressed by what he saw.
“Their defensive line is outstanding. They’re big, they’re athletic, they’ve got one guy (Eli Harold) on the edge who is an unbelievable pass rusher,” he said. “Offensively, that’s their strength as well — a big, physical front. Both sides of the ball really got after BYU, which you don’t see very often.”
Virginia’s defense was solid against the Cougars, limiting them to 362 yards and even setting up the game-winning touchdown with an interception, but will need much more help from the offense this week.
The Cavaliers managed just 223 yards, and its touchdowns came on drives of 13 and 19 yards.
“We’ve got to become a lot more explosive offensively, there’s no question about it, and we’ve got to be a lot more consistent, but it was just the beginning,” offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said.
The defense is anticipating doing its part again this week, middle linebacker Henry Coley said.
“I think they can be contained,” he said. “Just like Kevin Durant. You know Kevin Durant’s going to go out and get 30 points every night, regardless, but are you going to let him get 45? That’s the question.”
Five things to watch for when No. 2 Oregon plays at Virginia:
1. SPEED KILLS: It should be apparent pretty early if Virginia has an answer for the Ducks’ team speed, and if the Cavaliers’ front four can control the line and give its linebackers and secondary a chance to make stops near the line. That could make the Ducks vulnerable to the pass rush.
2. DAVID v GOLIATH: Redshirt sophomore QB David Watford struggled making plays downfield last week, with his longest completion going for 20 yards and his 18 completions going for just 114 yards in all. The speedy dual threat also ran 10 times, but for just 10 yards. Look for some more imaginative play calling.
3. I’LL TAKE THAT: Oregon led the country in turnover margin a year ago, forcing 40 turnovers. That’s 28 more than Virginia forced, which has been a huge point of emphasis for the Cavaliers under new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. If the Ducks are forcing turnovers, this will be over by halftime.
4. MOVING THE CHAINS: Virginia limited BYU to seven third-down conversions in 23 attempts last week and forced 11 punts, which would suggest domination if the Cavaliers’ offense had been better. It converted just 6 of 20 third down and punted 13 times. Getting the Ducks offense off the field will be big for Virginia’s defense, which got worn down late in the humidity against BYU’s fast-paced attack, but the offense needs to help out, too, by making some first downs to allow the D to rest, and by scoring.
5. WHERE’S DE’ANTHONY THOMAS?: Oregon’s lightning quick, do-everything Thomas has to be accounted for on every play, and at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, that can be a challenge. He played running back last week, but has also been known to line up at receiver, and to return punts and kickoffs. He scored all four ways last season, becoming the first Ducks player in 47 years to do that.
AP sports writer Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.
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