Commentary

While offense gets attention, Ducks' defense plays surprisingly well

Updated: October 18, 2007, 4:14 PM ET
By Ted Miller | Special to ESPN.com
When most folks saw the score from Oregon's 53-7 victory over Washington State, they focused on the 53 instead of the 7, because the Ducks are known for their high-scoring offense. But the defense, which lost five key starters from its 2006 unit, has played surprisingly well most of the season. Coach Mike Bellotti called it a classic "bend but don't break" group, meaning it surrenders yards (392.2 per game) but not many points (20.7 ppg). Why? Two reasons: It's forced 15 turnovers and it ranks No. 1 in the Pac-10 in the red zone. While it's not a star-studded unit, end Nick Reed earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors when he contributed 3½ of the Ducks' 6½ sacks against the Cougars. "He's been our most consistent defensive lineman," Bellotti said.

Injuries have become a concern, particularly on offense, where receiver Cameron Colvin and backup running back Jeremiah Johnson were injured against Washington State. Like No. 1 receiver Brian Paysinger, both are out for the season -- Colvin with a broken ankle and Johnson with an ACL tear. Meanwhile, the defense expects linebacker A.J. Tuitele to return for the Oregon State game on Dec. 1.

Sophomore Andre Crenshaw will replace Johnson, while freshman Aaron Pflugrad will step in for Colvin. The multiple hits at receiver also figure to make tight ends Ed Dickson and freshman Malachi Lewis more prominent passing options.

Ted Miller | email

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