Defense Keys Huge First Half for Oregon Ducks Over Tennessee Volunteers

By Tyler Brett
mark helfrich
Scott Olmos – USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Volunteers traveled across the country to take on the Oregon Ducks in Autzen Stadium looking to shock the world. For Oregon, many considered their first real test of the season after handily dispatching FCS Nicholls State and the Virginia Cavaliers. After one half of football, however, it’s clear that Oregon is as good as advertised and Tennessee isn’t ready to contend.

Things started out well for the Vols. They got the first points of the game on a touchdown pass from Justin Worley and forced Oregon to attempt field goals on their first two trips into the Tennessee end of the field (they only made one). It looked like Tennessee’s defensive athleticism would be able to disrupt Oregon’s offensive attack while the Vols offense could lean on the Ducks’ front and use the running game to control the tempo.

But then the Ducks got on track. Marcus Mariota found his rhythm in the passing game and De’Anthony Thomas cut it loose in the running game, leading Oregon’s blur offense to five first-half touchdown drives. Defensively, the Oregon front found ways to disrupt the big, experienced Vol offensive line and held the Tennessee running game in check. That put the pressure on the passing game, which played right into the strength of this Oregon defense.

In all, the Ducks allowed just five first downs to the Tennessee offense while their offense found its footing. By shutting down the Vols’ running game as the Ducks’ offense rolled up the points in the first half, Nick Aliotti‘s defense is setting Oregon up for success. With a huge lead, Tennessee will have to give up on the running game, forcing Worley to test the talented secondary of the Ducks.

That’s not how Butch Jones wanted to attack this game. Because of the play of the Oregon defense, however, he won’t have any choice in the second half as he attempts to get his team to mount a very unlikely comeback.

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