Containing Washington quarterback Jake Browning will be a huge part of Oregon’s defensive game plan Saturday as the Ducks take on the Huskies while a nationwide television audience watches.
Although Browning is not the running quarterback that Arizona’s Khalil Tate is, he is equally dangerous converting third downs, often with his legs. Jim Leavitt, Oregon's defensive coordinator, conceived an excellent plan to contain Tate last season that the Ducks executed brilliantly. One important key was the rush of the defensive ends and outside linebackers.
To be disciplined playing defense requires the ability to overlook personal gain, such as sacks and stats, and holding your position and doing the best you can to distract the quarterback.
The rule of thumb for the outside rushers is never rush deeper than the quarterback has dropped to pass; that way the quarterback can’t get outside and is contained in the pocket. If the rusher is too deep, the offensive tackle blocking can stay with the rusher and stay between him and the quarterback, who just has to step up and then scramble outside where the rusher should be, but isn’t.
Browning has made some bad decisions on passes and denying him the chance to scramble and find an option, run or pass, has hurt the Huskies the past four seasons. Watch Oregon’s pass rushers to see if they overrun Browning and what he makes of that defensive mistake.
It will be interesting to watch the offensive line battle a physical defense that ranks nationally in effectiveness. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has made a big deal of playing with more physicality and it has showed in the past two games. The Huskies present the most serious challenge this season.
The offensive line has protected quarterback Justin Herbert like a glass slipper against Stanford and Cal and will be hard pressed to do so today. Washington has a couple of safeties and linebackers who are very dangerous as pass rushers.
Sometimes the Huskies will have three linemen rushing and add a safety that will line up on the line of scrimmage. With four rushers coming, it may seem like a blitz, but it’s a normal pass rush with a better, faster athlete coming rather than a defensive lineman.
The team that wins today will have the better quarterback performance, commit the fewest turnovers and be the most disciplined on defense. To this date, the Huskies have done this on a regular basis but the Ducks have improved greatly from last season.
Cristobal’s challenge is for his team to achieve those goals. Do so and the Ducks will wear the crown of victory.
Former Oregon player Ken Woody coached college football for 18 years, including as an assistant at Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Utah State.