While offense falters, defensive stars shine against Bulldogs

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It was an underwhelming first game of the season for coach Mario Cristobal and the Oregon Ducks, who escaped Autzen Stadium with a 31-24 win over the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday.

The offense struggled under quarterback Anthony Brown, who only threw for 172 yards on the day and was often in trouble thanks to a surprisingly inefficient offensive line, something that will need to change in a hurry against Ohio State this weekend.

However, Oregon’s new defense under Tim DeRuyter looked quite good at times, particularly the trio of five star recruits in Kayvon Thibodeaux – who had a sack-fumble early in the contest before exiting with an ankle injury – as well as linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe.

“That sack-fumble; you watch it on tape and that’s what you’re looking for when you recruit a player,” Cristobal said about Thibodeaux after the game. “A guy that can explode like that, because you change things. A guy tries to gap-hinge or tries to set him, but the set doesn’t get there, or the set line is cut off, and blow by him, all of a sudden you hit the quarterback and the balls on the ground.

“Same thing with Justin, they move at a different speed, so people have to adjust differently, and then all of a sudden the collisions are that much greater. All of a sudden, the opportunity to dislodge a ball, to close in a situation and get someone on the ground that may have broke for a first down or a touchdown. Those things are a reality with athletes of that caliber. Those are certainly two guys, them and Noah, and a lot of guys on the defense that are starting to play at a high level, and we just have to keep elevating the way that we play.”

Flowe in particular was excellent on Saturday, flying all over the field and finishing with a team-high 14 combined tackles, including five of the solo variety and one tackle for loss.

“He did a great job, and just plays with so much energy, so much passion,” Cristobal continued. “He’s a force. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get. We’re just really excited about the way he played today, and what he brings to this football team”.

Oregon’s offense will need to improve considerably if this team is going to beat the Buckeyes on Saturday, but at least the team and their fans can feel confident the defense will hold their own and keep them competitive.

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5 takeaways from Oregon's concerning 31-24 victory over Fresno State