OR defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt wants big plays limited against Nebraska

Loren Elliott | Times

The combination of Oregon's conservative play-calling and Nebraska's defensive adjustments limited the former Sheldon High standout to 4-for-8 passing for 52 yards with no scores and one interception in the second half. From there, the Blackshirt defense forced two turnovers and helped bring the Big Red within one touchdown with just over two minutes to go.

When all was said and done, the Ducks (2-0) had racked up almost 600 yards despite being shutout in the second half in front of a sellout crowd of 58,389 at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks ran out the clock - their eighth straight scoreless series - and avenged last year's loss in Lincoln.

The Ducks are also concerned about the Husker offense. In 2016, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers rushed for 157 yards and three scores, while running back Marlon Mack added 107. Justin Herbert completed 17 of 21 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown while Taylor Alie threw for 74 yards in 6-for-6 passes. Freeman had a 28-yard run in the drive.

But with such a party atmosphere late in the first half, it's hard to imagine that it didn't contribute to the lack of focus in the second half. Herbert's top target was senior Charles Nelson, who piled up 117 yards and a touchdown, burning coverages with his lightning-fast speed.

Seeing red: Of an estimated 15,000 Huskers fans in attendance Saturday, the majority took over Autzen Stadium's west end zone, surrounding the OR band and turning the entire end of the stadium red.

Oregon's defense, which experienced the meltdown against TCU in the Alamo Bowl two seasons ago and finished 126th in points and yards allowed during a 4-8 finish last season, prevented Mike Riley from staging a Hollywood ending to his homecoming story. Defensive back Aaron Williams intercepted a pass early in the third quarter, and defensive back Antonio Reed forced a Freeman fumble, which Williams recovered.

OR responded with 75-yard touchdown drive that Freeman finished with a 2-yard touchdown run to end the first quarter with the Ducks ahead 21-7. Sophomore running back Tre Bryant injured his right knee on his 20th carry and also did not return.

The Nebraska defense then held serve, forcing a punt after six plays.

Lee threw this ball where only Pierson-El could get it. Pierson-El juggled the ball for a second and used the OR defensive back to help come up with the slick grab.

Nebraska then put together a 10-play, 95-yard drive to answer the Ducks. Runs like 15 yards or long pass plays are big.




In between those scores, the Huskers had a costly false start at their 34-yard line that negated what would have been a fourth-and-1 conversion. Instead, Lee threw his fourth interception of the game to end it.

Not surprisingly after watching that display, OR came out firing on Saturday against Nebraska and quickly propelled themselves to a 14-0 lead.

Saturday's first half, no doubt, ranks right up there.

Night and day. That's the best description of the Huskers' first-half performance compared to their second.

"You can't get any simpler than that, than just kind of feed your studs", Taggart said in his news conference following Oregon's 77-21 destruction of the FCS Thunderbirds in Saturday's opener.

The Huskers scored on their first two possessions in the second half with a pair of touchdown passes from Lee to wide receiver Stanley Morgan.

The Huskers opened 2017 with a much more competitive game than Oregon.

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley summarized OR on Monday as "lots of yardage, lots of points".

Because Oregon is wearing white, Nebraska will wear its home uniforms in Eugene.

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