Oregon Ducks vs. South Dakota Coyotes Complete Game Preview
The Oregon Ducks open up the 2014 campaign in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium against the South Dakota Coyotes.
While this game will mostly amount to a preseason affair for the Ducks, it will be an important first step, as the Ducks have to get ready to face the Michigan State Spartans, the defending Rose Bowl champions, in Eugene on September 6.
South Dakota finished 4-8 last season in the Missouri Valley Conference and are 51-point underdogs heading into Eugene. The Coyotes know they’re coming to Eugene to be used as a punching bag, but so did Appalachian State when they played Michigan in 2007. You can never be 100 percent sure of anything. That’s why they play the game.
If all goes according to plan, however, the Ducks will be up by five or six touchdowns by halftime and will rest their starters for next week’s big game. As for this one, here’s everything you need to know:
- Date: Saturday, Aug. 30th
- Time: 7:30 PM Pacific Time
- Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
- TV: Pac-12 Networks
- Spread: Oregon is a 51-point favorite over South Dakota, according to 5dimes.eu.
Oregon Ducks Keys to Victory
Speed, Speed and More Speed
The Ducks offense, which ranked second in the country in total yards and third in points in 2013, is the main reason why they are preseason ranked No. 3 by The Associated Press and No. 4 by USA Today.
Oregon’s offense is built on speed, speed and even more speed. The Ducks are going to get to the line quickly, push the tempo and run the Coyotes to death. Whether it’s quarterback Marcus Mariota, running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner or even wide receivers Keanon Lowe and Devon Allen, the Ducks are going to get the ball in space and attack South Dakota with speed.
If the Ducks set the tempo early against South Dakota, look for the game to be over by halftime.
Pressure Kevin Earl
Oregon’s defense features six new starters this season and will need to become a cohesive unit quickly if they’re going to take down Michigan State on September 6. This is a theme that the Oregon coaches will be pushing upon their players this week as they prepare for South Dakota.
We all know that this is a tuneup game for Oregon. South Dakota knows it, too. But the Ducks defense has to play like they’re playing Stanford. That means it will be extremely important for defensive end DeForest Buckner, defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Alex Balducci and rover Tony Washington to get after South Dakota’s quarterback, Kevin Earl.
If they pressure Earl early and often, they’re going to force turnovers, which will give the offense more snaps. Getting the ball to Oregon’s offense more often is a very, very good thing.
South Dakota Coyotes Keys to Victory
Throw the Ball Deep
Oregon’s secondary will be featuring three new starters when they take the field on Saturday. Cornerback Dior Mathis, free safety Erick Dargan and strong safety Reggie Daniels will join cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the secondary. It will be the first time the four of them will play together as a unit versus an opponent. If South Dakota is to have any chance at competing with Oregon, Kevin Earl is going to have to throw the ball deep and challenge the secondary.
Last season, Earl threw for 1,920 yards and nine touchdowns in parts of 10 games for the Coyotes. Those numbers aren’t very impressive, especially when you consider Earl only completed 52.5 percent of his passes and threw nine interceptions. Earl is going to need to have the game of his life in order for South Dakota to keep pace with the Ducks.
Stop the Rush
In 13 games last season, Oregon gained 4,098 yards on the ground, third-best in college football, while averaging 5.98 yards per attempt. The Ducks also scored 48 rushing touchdowns in 2013, tied for first in the nation. Needless to say, Oregon has one of the best rushing attacks in the country and figures to be even better on the ground this season.
There’s no way to slow down Oregon’s rushing attack, unless you have a defensive line like Stanford’s. South Dakota is going to have to penetrate Oregon’s offensive line while simultaneously sticking to their gap assignments. It’s a lot to ask of a team that gave up 175 yards per game on the ground last season against Missouri Valley opponents.
Oregon Ducks Players to Watch
Buckner, a 6’7” defensive end, is one to watch this season for the Ducks. Though he only had 2.5 sacks in 2013, in limited playing time, he should be one of Oregon’s best defenders this season. Buckner is an athletic freak who will likely be used the same way Dion Jordan was for the Ducks two seasons ago. Against an inferior offensive line like the one South Dakota employs, Buckner should be able to get to the quarterback early and often.
The Ducks are likely going to limit the playing time of running backs Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall, especially if Oregon jumps on South Dakota early. While we’re still not sure how much of a role freshman Royce Freeman will play for the Ducks this season, it is likely we’re going to get our first peek at the kid who is quickly making a name for himself in Eugene. If he’s anything like what we’ve heard about him so far, we may be getting an early look into Oregon’s future.
South Dakota Coyotes Players to Watch
The Coyotes will be hard-pressed to score on Oregon’s defense, but if they do it will be because of sophomore running back Trevor Bouma. As a freshman in 2013, Bouma led the Coyotes in rushing with 781 yards and three touchdowns. Bouma, who is 5’11” and 215 pounds, also caught 27 passes out of the backfield last season.
Senior linebacker Auston Johnson totaled the most tackles of any returning player during the 2013 season with 69. Johnson, who is 6’0” and 240 pounds, also accumulated seven sacks last season. If the Coyotes are going to have any chance at slowing down Oregon’s offensive attack, Johnson is going to have to be the leader.
What They’re Saying
This team has experienced double-digit wins and big-time games and I think that the mentality here is, the kids, they know how to keep that pressure on the back burner right now," Greatwood said. "I don't see myself or any of the coaches having to do anything to quell their fears about not exceeding expectations. It just gets back to we have to win game one. And then we have to win game two and I really believe our kids understand that on the march to the final goal.
"We're not impervious. Michigan State's coming in here week two and it's a huge game with huge implications, sure, everybody feels that. But right now it's, 'Hey, take care of business today. What did we mess up today?' That's what you have to focus on.
Ken Bradley of Sporting News says that Oregon has the fifth-easiest opener in the country this season:
In 2010, the Coyotes stunned Minnesota, 41-38. That was the first of nine consecutive losses for the Gophers that season. That sort of upset will not happen in 2014. The Ducks don’t resemble the 2010 Gophers in any way, shape or form. With Marcus Mariota back at quarterback, Oregon is expected to be in the hunt for one of the four playoff spots. This game will be little more than a glorified scrimmage for the Ducks, but one they’ll use to fine-tune things before Michigan State comes to town the following Saturday.
South Dakota head coach Joe Glenn wants his team to embrace the experience of playing against one of the top programs in the nation:
This is an opportunity for our team to see one of the top programs in the United States and play in one of the nation’s best facilities,” said USD head coach Joe Glenn. “It will be an experience that our players will be able to share with their children and grandchildren. Financially, it helps out our department and helps make ends meet.
Sophomore running back Trevor Bouma says South Dakota's confidence is extremely high, according to the Sioux City Journal.
Our confidence is extremely high right now,” Bouma said during USD media day Tuesday at the DakotaDome. “We’re not going to think twice about what we’re doing on our assignments, we just have to think about effort and execution. During the summer some of the older guys told us how much easier the second year, after you get a season under your belt, would be. I didn’t believe them until I got into the swing of things again and just realized how much one year under your belt helps you.
Oregon 63, South Dakota 13
The Ducks are ranked so highly because they featured one of the best quarterbacks in the country, a dynamic offense and a defense that is going to force a ton of turnovers. There is no way that lowly South Dakota is going to be able to compete with Oregon’s speed on both sides of the ball.
Look for the Ducks to pounce on the Coyotes early and often. You should expect the Ducks to be up by five or six touchdowns by halftime. Oregon will still dominate the second half with their reserves, but it will be a much more competitive game after halftime.