California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff is leading the FBS in passing with 435.3 yards per game, and the Oregon secondary is taking that as a personal challenge.
Safety Erick Dargan told Rob Moseley of goducks.com, "When a team throws the ball like this, as a secondary we kind of feel like it's on us. Today we wanted to be a lot more aggressive. The ball in the air is an opportunity for our secondrary to make plays, and we're going to be up to the challenge."
Dargan had 3 ints at practice on Monday. The defensive backfield took extra reps on the Jugs machine after practice. Everybody is gearing up for the Bears, who've thrown the football 56 times a game over their first three outings.
Brotherhood of bandits: Oregon picked up off 26 passes last season, tops in the nation, returning them for 502 yards and four touchdowns. So far this year Erick Dargan and his fellow henchmen have just three picks. They're behind schedule, but Jared Goff and Cal throw the football 56 times a game (Steve Dykes, Getty images photo).
Another aspect of Saturday's game is quarterback pressure. Thus far this season Oregon has 8 sacks. In the first three games Sonny ****'s offense has given up 12. Disruption and negative plays lead to bad decisions and big mistakes. It's imperative that the Webfoot defensive line shows up Saturday with nasty intention. Goff is a true freshman making his first start on the road. It'd be a good week for Nick Aliotti's crew to start on the road from good to great.
On Monday the Ducks went back to work with urgency and purpose. Head coach Mark Helfrich said, “Today was a really good effort. Everybody had a little spring in [their] step, hopefully that’s an indication of being fresh.”
One thing Chip Kelly's teams mastered was the concept of faceless opponents. They truly seemed to buy in to his insistence that every game week was equally important, and as a result, in four years they never had slip-up against the bottom feeders of the schedule. That's good, because the Ducks start with five of them. Against Nicholls, Virginia, Tennessee, California and Colorado, the Ducks are four to five touchdown favorites every week. These are teams with new quarterbacks or new coaches or obvious weaknesses. It isn't Georgia versus LSU, or Oregon at Stanford. That comes later.
But the only way to win later is to get better now. The effort in practice represents a willingness to manufacture a challenge and recognize that any opponent can be a dangerous one if there is a slippage in the commitment level.
The idea of faceless opponents has been an effective guiding principle for the Ducks. Fans have to hope also that the team tempers that with an understanding that the games will get harder in the coming weeks, against teams with the fire power to punch back.
Which doesn't mean the Bears couldn't, should the Duck secondary let down.
That isn't likely.