STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the run defense: Washington running back Myles Gaskin was one of the best returning running backs in the country this season. But after spurning the NFL draft last year to return for his senior season, Gaskin’s stats have been underwhelming thus far.
After running for over 1,300 yards in each of his first season, Gaskin has run for 554 yards and five touchdowns this year, well below his typical production at the halfway point of a season. His 4.5 yards per rush is also the lowest of his career.
A shuffling offensive line and the slight decline in quarterback Jake Browning has allowed defenses to stack the box against Gaskin and dare Browning to beat them. For this, Gaskin is often having to make multiple players miss rather than one and being off for the races.
This bodes well for an Oregon defense that is among the best in the country and stopping the run. The Ducks give up 108.6 rushing yards per game, second best in the Pac-12 —and 2.97 yards per attempt, 12th best in the nation.
Nose tackle Jordon Scott is the anchor of the defensive line, a 329-lb behemoth in the middle. Being able to occupy multiple offensive linemen and both “A” gaps allows other members of the team to swarm the ball-carrier.
The Ducks have a good combination of size, athleticism and strength that allows them keep opposing running backs at bay. They do a good job of setting the edge and playing to their responsibilities, very rarely being seen out of position.
Two weeks ago, Cal quarterback Brandon McIlwain ran for over 100 yards against the Ducks, the first time they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher on the season. Browning isn’t known as a runner, but he did rush for 49 yards a score last week against BYU, making him a threat from the quarterback position.
Scouting the pass defense: If the Ducks are susceptible anywhere, it’s in the secondary.
The Ducks give up 238.2 passing yards per game, often getting beat on the outside. Although they’ve given up 10 touchdown passes on the season, the unit is allowing quarterbacks to complete 55.6-percent of their passes. The Ducks’ eight interceptions on the season is tied for the Pac-12 lead while safeties Ugochukwu Amadi and Jevon Holland have three interceptions each, tied for fourth nationally.
Starting cornerbacks Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir are smaller in stature (5-foot-11) and often struggle in one-on-one situations where their size limits them. But, they both play physical and compared with their athleticism, they’ve showed spurts of becoming solid players on the edge.
But, they’ll be going up against Browning, Washington’s all-time leading passer.
Even with a slower start to the season, Browning has shown the ability to command the offense. He’s thrown for 1,508 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 66.9-percent of his passes. He has thrown five interceptions, often making bad decisions by not throwing the ball away or forcing into tight windows.
Entering the year, it was unknown who would be catching the ball for the Huskies, but Aaron Fuller has emerged as a true threat. He leads the team with 35 catches for 574 yards, more than doubling the next receiver in both stats. Ty Jones leads the team with four touchdowns.
After a good game against Cal two weeks ago, the Ducks look to build on that momentum. They’re growing before the nation’s eyes but will be tested against Browning.