Helfrich: Virginia's Threats
EUGENE – The Oregon Ducks are preparing to face a much tougher foe this week at Virginia than what they faced Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
That adversary is not merely the Cavaliers, who will be considerably more talented than Nicholls State, dominated 66-3 by Oregon in its opener.
The Ducks this week also must contend with potentially troublesome weather conditions, temperatures in the 80s with humidity potentially 65 percent or greater.
Even for a team that conditions itself to play at a fast pace like Oregon could be caught of guard by how the body reacts in such a hot and humid environment.
It’s enough of a concern to make defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti feel the need to have as many defensive players prepared to play as possible.
“I’ve got to make sure I get some guys ready ‘cause we need to stay fresh and sharp so we can run like we like to run and play like we like to play,” he said.
Oregon spent some practice time this week in the Moshofsky Center where the coaches could crank up the heat.
Aliotti said he hopes to have 22 to 25 defenders ready to go.
Both sides of the ball for Oregon might actually have more reasons to be concerned with Virginia’s talent level rather than the weather, despite what the 23 ½-point spread the Ducks are favored by might suggest.
Oregon offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone said the Cavaliers will be much better than the Colonels in every way.
“They are a lot bigger than what we saw last week, a lot more physical and faster,” he said. “Nicholls State’s guys, they worked hard but they didn’t move laterally necessarily very well. These Virginia players, they are a lot faster and a lot more violent.”
The Cavaliers run a 4-3 defense, somewhat of an endangered species with the 3-4 being much more in vogue, and Virginia likes to attack and force the issue.
“They are a four-down team,” Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said. “We never block a four-down front….What these guys are so good at is the movement of the defensive line. They are not standing still sitting in a gap. They are going to move, slant, angle and twist. So we have to really be on the mark there.”
The Cavaliers held BYU to 362 yards of offense on 93 plays during a 19-16 win last week.
“Their front seven, they’re very athletic and very fast but our offensive line definitely could matchup with their athleticism,” Oregon center Hroniss Grasu said.
But all of that movement and athleticism could lead to overplaying, which could then lead to big plays for Oregon.
“If they want to do that much movement then we have run the ball and get on the outside,” Grasu said.
On offense, Virginia appears to be quite ordinary. The Cavaliers managed to gain just 223 yards against the Cougars.
Oregon safety Avery Patterson said the Ducks are prepared for Virginia to run the ball heavily and then try to take shots with deep passes.
“I feel like they are going to run the ball a little bit and hit us over the top, if they can,” Patterson said.
Such schemes only work when teams become fatigued, lazy and lose focus.
Oregon is doing all that it can to avoid all of the above.