Oregon’s Defense – The 60%

Think Ducks, and you probably think offense. The Ducks are best known for their high-powered spread attack that lays siege to the scoreboard every week. Even their mascot is nationally famous for doing hundreds of pushups each game just to count out those points. But somewhere behind the attention-getting offense, there’s an underappreciated defense that’s doing a hell of a job right now.

In Pac-12 play this season, Oregon is second only to Stanford in points allowed. The Duck’s defense has given up just 17.2 points per game to the Cardinal’s 17.0. In a conference where teams other than these two average 23 points per game, a six point edge is impressive. In Oregon’s case, though, it’s even more impressive.

On Saturday, Oregon gave up just 17 points and 278 yards to a Washington team that was averaging nearly 34 points and 400-plus total yards per game. The Duck’s defense did this despite being on the field for 60% of the game, and facing 13 possessions against the Husky’s offense. One of the reasons this defense doesn’t get the recognition it should is that Oregon’s pace of play not only puts the defense on the field for a majority of the game, it also forces the defense to face more possessions (and plays) than most teams in the country. For comparison, in Stanford’s win over Oregon State, though the Cardinal defense allowed just 13 points and 285 total yards, it only faced 10 Beaver possessions. When adjusted for possessions per game, Oregon came out on top defensively this past week, especially when you consider the Ducks’ and Cardinal’s respective opponents.

On the Pac-12 season, Oregon’s defense has faced an average of 13.5 possessions each game, while Stanford’s just 10.5*. The following chart helps to explain how Oregon’s defense may not be getting the respect it deserves.










PA/10 Poss

Yds/10 Poss











Though Stanford wins the per-game battles, Oregon wins the more-important per possession and per play statistics. Despite being left on the field for much of the game, the Duck’s defense has been the most efficient in the Pac-12 this season.

And they’re going to need every bit of that efficiency when they head down to the Farm this weekend to take on the 3rd-ranked Cardinal.


*Stats from Stanford’s overtime possessions against USC were not included in the possession analysis since teams start from the opponent’s 25-yard line.


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