The Oregon Ducks will try and secure their Pac 12 supremacy against the UCLA Bruins tonight in Autzen Stadium but will have their hands full with a talented Bruins’ offense. Brett Hundley was quietly putting together a Heisman Trophy resume before tripping up against the Stanford Cardinal last week, but will be on the lookout for a bounce-back performance this week against the Ducks. To keep him in check, Oregon will need Tony Washington to bring the heat.
With the way the Ducks’ offense puts pressure on teams to try and keep up with them, there are plenty of opportunities for Washington to pin his ears back and rush the quarterback. He’s taken advantage of those opportunities this season with 6.5 sacks this season, second-highest total in the Pac 12. He’s been the anchor in a defense that can bring pressure from any number of places as the Oregon defense ranks No. 2 in the conference with 20 sacks this season.
For Hundley, Oregon will want to follow the blue-print set up by Stanford last week when they were able to bring pressure on the UCLA quarterback in the pocket but maintained contain to keep him from hurting them with his athleticism. The result was Hundley’s worst performance of the season with just 192 yards passing and 27 yards rushing with one touchdown through the air and two interceptions while getting sacked four times. The key to making that gameplan work is having athletic pass-rushers capable of tracking Hundley down.
Washington is a perfect fit for that model. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound junior has great size and strength to take on blockers but also has the athleticism to match mobile quarterbacks like Hundley. He’ll need to come off the edge with controlled aggression to make sure he doesn’t overrun the pocket and open up running lanes for Hundley to exploit but that’s something he has shown he’s capable of already this season.
The Oregon defense will be the difference-maker in this game. There’s little doubt that the Ducks’ offense will score points, so the key for Oregon becomes creating some stops against the UCLA offense. If they hope to get that done, they need to contain Hundley and harass him in the pocket and Tony Washington is just the man for that job.