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The Defense and How To Deal With Problems

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The Oregon defense showed what it was capable of against Michigan State. How will the success transition to the whole defense.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Michigan State game I didn't keep it a secret that I was worried.  We all knew that Oregon had struggled against teams that had power-rushing attacks more times than not.  I was fully prepared for Michigan State to average four yards per carry like clockwork and to clog the line of scrimmage when Oregon was on offense on a level only seen by the current members of Congress.

What happened was completely different than what I imagined.  At halftime when Oregon was averaging about a yard per carry and Michigan State had seemingly "solved" the Oregon defense, whatever that means, I was certain that what I was about to watch I had seen many times before.  However, something changed in the second half.

For years now the Oregon defense has been maligned for its inability to get off the field, inability to stop huge, slugging offensive lines, and blamed by the mainstream for why Oregon wasn't a top tier program.  The defense had the size on paper to be what we all thought they could be.  Against Michigan State in the second half the defensive front seven realized what we've known for a long time: that they can play as big as they can fast.

Armstead is really the face of the changing defense.  He had all the hype and tools but for some reason couldn't maximize it.  He said after the Michigan State game, "People throw the ‘soft' words at us all the time... But we turned them into a passing team primarily by stopping the run early on... I don't know if the (critics') questions are answered but I feel like we did a good job."

There's the one motivational technique, mostly frowned upon today for good reason, where the shame of something happening is so strong that a group will do anything to accomplish their goal.  I envision the defense really just reaching the point where they can't stand the narrative of "too small and soft."  Especially as football players, machismo and toughness are revered above all else.

In the film Wolf of Wall Street, main character Jordan Belfort uses materialism and the promise of money to fix their problems as the motivation to sell a stock IPO.  The speech can easily be modified to address the Oregon defense:

Is everyone saying that you're soft?

Good!  Get to the quarterback and stuff the run.

Are you tired of the narrative being that if only Oregon had a defense they could be national champions?

Good!  Get to the quarterback and stuff the run.

Does your girlfriend ask you after games why the running back ran for over 100 yards and five yards per carry?

Good!  Get to the quarterback and stuff the run.

I want you to deal with your problems by being the best!

All you have to do is get in your three-point stance and execute the moves I have taught you and I will make you better than any of Bear Bryant's defensemen.  I want you to go out there and ram the middle of the line of scrimmage until they choke, choke so badly they start punting on first down.  You be ferocious!  You be relentless!  You be line of scrimmage terrorists!

The issue now has been the pass coverage and there's no better team to test a defensive secondary than the Washington State Cougars With Ifo-Ekpre Olomu locking it down and Erik Dargan picking off anything in his zone there are a lot of questions and not a lot of people to ask them of.

We now know that the defensive line and linebackers can perform at a level that will win Oregon a national championship.  The defensive secondary has been star-studded but needs to make the defense whole.  It's trial by fire this week and I'm looking forward to how the secondary is going to deal with their problems.