Troy Dye snagged a spectacular interception on the sideline during Oregon’s opener.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt isn’t worried about his star linebacker moving to tight end anytime soon.
Dye, the Ducks’ leading tackler the past two seasons, also let a pass thrown right between his numbers slip through his grasp during the 58-24 victory over Bowling Green.
“How about the one he dropped? The missed opportunity. It hit him right in the hands,” an ebullient Leavitt said of Dye after Wednesday’s practice. “So I gave him a hard time after he got the pick. I said, ’Troy, it still doesn’t make up for the one. You should have had a pick-six.’
“We should have scored twice because he had nobody there, he would have went all the way.”
After struggling for years, it’s finally time for Oregon’s defense to get greedy.
Leavitt would like to see his unit put together a more complete game when the 23rd-ranked Ducks host Portland State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Bowling Green jumped out to a 10-0 lead after a pair of 10-play scoring drives in the first quarter. Leavitt’s budding secondary also gave up a touchdown pass with nine seconds left in the second quarter and a 63-yard touchdown pass during garbage time late in the fourth quarter.
“There’s some really good things, some things that were not as good,” Leavitt said.
Nose guard Jordon Scott and outside linebacker Justin Hollins swarmed running back Andrew Clair behind the line of scrimmage to thwart the Falcons on a fourth-and-2 at the Oregon 32-yard line in the first quarter.
The Ducks also recorded a team safety after a snap sailed over the Bowling Green punter’s head, and senior safety Ugo Amadi returned an interception for a 38-yard touchdown on the first possession of the second half to extend the lead to 44-17.
Clair finished with 113 yards rushing but no touchdowns. Jarrett Doege was 22-for-38 passing for 253 yards with three touchdowns.
Oregon sacked Doege three times and forced him to commit three turnovers (two interceptions and a lost fumble).
“Our defense is going to continue evolving,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “I thought all those guys did a good job on Saturday just getting us going and getting the ball back to the offense so we could kind of get the momentum back on our side.”
Defensive end Jalen Jelks showed why NFL teams are interested in his skill set by leading the team with nine tackles and recovering a fumble.
Dye had eight tackles and the interception, Hollins had seven tackles and a forced fumble and Scott added seven tackles.
“It’s interesting. We’re a younger team on defense than we were last year,” Leavitt said. “You’ve got about three guys in the pros. Really, look at how many seniors are on this defense. What, a couple? Two or three guys maybe? That’s a pretty young defense.”
Leavitt actually started four seniors (Jelks, Hollins, Amadi and inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu) three juniors (Dye, outside linebacker La’Mar Winston and defensive end Gary Baker) and four sophomores (Scott, safety Nick Pickett and cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir) against Bowling Green.
Oregon lost defensive end Henry Mondeaux, linebacker Jimmie Swain, safety Tyree Robinson and cornerback Arrion Springs from the group that started in the Las Vegas Bowl.
“We had some pretty good seniors,” Leavitt said. “It’s a young group, but we do have a lot of guys that played a lot of football, too.”
Winston is questionable and Lenoir is probable after both were in concussion protocol after the opener.
All healthy Ducks should get on the field against the Vikings, who opened the season with a 72-19 loss at Nevada.
Leavitt, who was able to get some of his backups over 40 snaps against Bowling Green, isn’t worried about his players overlooking Portland State, which lost 35-32 at Oregon State last season as part of its ongoing 14-game losing streak.
“They went and played Oregon State, and Oregon State was 35 to 32 because they didn’t pay attention to playing a really good game,” Leavitt said. “They’re in the state of Oregon. You know they’re going to play their tail off and they’re going to want to do everything they can to get in the fourth quarter and make it a game. That’s what I expect. I go into every game thinking it’s going to come to the fourth quarter and see what happens then.”
Dye knows when Leavitt is joking and when it’s time to get serious about preparing for the next opponent. Oregon’s on-field defensive leader said the team will be ready to perform at a high level against Portland State.
“It’s not about who you play, it’s about how we play,” Dye said. “No matter who we’re playing, whether it’s the Dallas Cowboys or Portland State or whoever it may be lining up across from us, we have to prepare the way we prepare and we’ve got to go out there and play the way we’ve got to play.”