EUGENE — Oregon’s defense faces its toughest test on the ground to date this season against UCLA.
The Bruins (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) are led by the running back tandem of Pac-12 leading rusher Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown, who are complemented by dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Charbonnet, a transfer from Michigan, has 110 carries for 697 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with UCLA. Brown ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with 467 rushing yards and four scores and would probably be the feature back at most other schools in the conference.
“They’re the most physical runners that we have seen,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “They run behind their pads. Big, powerful leg drive. You saw early in the season against LSU, that’s when people really started to take notice. We had known that, (they’ve) been coming on for a while. Really impressive.
“You’ve got to get your defenders to the ball carriers because they typically don’t go down on first contact. They’re an operation of contact plus two, plus three yards.”
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Brown had nine carries for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks last season. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Brown is more compact than Charbonnet but they run similarly.
“They don’t appear to change the running game too much with those two,” defensive coordinator TIm DeRuyter said. “When (Kazmeir Allen) comes in, it’s a little bit different but both those guys can hit downhill, they do a great job making the first guy miss. They can burst and they’re patient enough to make really good cuts and they’re running through tackles a bunch so they’re both concerning to us.”
Ducks Joker linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux said a key will be to keep Charbonnet and Brown between the tackles and to get multiple defenders to the ball.
Combine their prowess with UCLA’s scheme, which DeRuyter said was “probably the most comprehensive running game” due to the variety of formations and motions the Bruins use and with Thompson-Robinson also a threat to run, it poses a lot of challenges to the Ducks.
“It’s a three-headed monster,” safety Verone McKinley III said. “You got to deal with the quarterback, then you got to deal with the two running backs and both of them run physical and they can move, they’re not slow. It’s going to be about taking that away. They’re going to get some runs, they are, but it’s a matter of getting them on the ground and playing the next snap.
“They’re physical, but we can be physical too. I think it’s going to be a game of we got to be more physical than them, up front, on the back end as well, we got to be more physical than them and continue to hit them. Let them know, let them feel us continue over and over again to hit them and let them know that we’re not scared.”
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaafb/can-oregon-ducks-contain-pac-12-leading-rusher-zach-charbonnet-brittain-brown-of-ucla/ar-AAPLnFD722