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DUCKS NOTES: Defense gears up to stop Texas run, 'great athletes'

by: COURTESY OF MICHAEL WORKMAN - Defensive back Terrance Mitchell and the Oregon Ducks defense will have to worry about both the run and pass games by Texas in Monday's Alamo Bowl.SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti continues to try to explain Oregon's porous run defense.

The Ducks lost to Stanford and Arizona, giving up a combined 578 yards on 121 carries.

Says Aliotti, of the Stanford loss: "We didn't play very well on offense. The fact we didn't play very well on offense, (Stanford) didn't have to throw the ball. You run the ball 66 times, you get 200-something yards, that's the nature of the beast.

"Utah (116 yards on 42 carries), we played well. Arizona, you can point the finger right here. We weren't ready, okay? I didn't have them ready. It's probably one of the worst games that we've played that I can remember."

Oregon State ran for an inexplicable 231 yards — or about 160 more than its average.

"Oregon State, didn't want them to run for that many yards, but they throw the ball, so we wanted to make sure they didn't throw the ball all over the place," he says. "Maybe to some degree the fact they run the ball helped us win."

As far as Monday's Alama Bowl game against Texas, Aliotti says tackling and matching personnel groups will be key – and stopping the run and Longhorns running back Malcolm Brown.

"We have to be ready for everything," Aliotti says.

  • Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu says Texas QB Case McCoy can extend plays with his legs. Stanford's Kevin Hogan and Arizona's Denker made key plays on the run in their victories over the Ducks.

    "A quarterback that can scramble — they're able to extend plays and create stuff that normally wouldn't be there," Ekpre-Olomu says. "They have great receivers that we're going to have to be able to cover and cover for a long time. ... Me, Terrance (Mitchell), Avery (Patterson), Brian (Jackson), we're all going to have to play great defense every play because they have a lot of great athletes. They have players that are able to spread the ball around and make things happen after the catch."

  • UO quarterback Marcus Mariota says he has received his NFL evaluation, but he wouldn't reveal Saturday what round he would likely be drafted, had he opted for the draft. It likely said high first round, but Mariota says he wants to keep things private.

    "That will be left for my family to know," he says. "Obviously, it said what it said, it's not going to alter my decision at all. It just reaffirmed what we thought."

    Why won't he talk about it?

    "It's because we didn't base the decision off of that," he says. "As a family, we wanted to make the decision off the fact that it was the best decision for myself and for the family. For me, it was coming back to school and getting my degree."

    Mariota is studying general science, with the hope of being a physical therapist after his football career.

    "A couple solid terms" of schoolwork and he should complete the degree. He has a 3.15 GPA and has earned the reputation of being a very good student.

    "That comes from my family," he says. "They say football is going to end sometime, you have to have an education to fall back on."

    As far as what he must improve on, as suggested in the NFL evaluation: "Obviously ball security, accuracy, different things like that. Becoming more consistent as a passer. All the things I can work on in the offseason. I'm really looking forward to this upcoming year, to get better, not only as a football player, but as a person."

  • Mariota, who played with a bum knee in November, says "since the last month, I feel the most healthy I've been."

    Offensive coordinator Scott Frost has said that Mariota's knee injury changed the way he called plays.

    "Marcus is healthy and ready to go," Frost says.

  • The Ducks, after struggling against Stanford and Arizona, got their running game going against Oregon State with 283 yards on 45 carries. Thomas Tyner had 140 yards on 22 carries, and De'Anthony Thomas gained 88 yards on 15 carries. The offensive line played more physically, and supposedly has continued to improve in bowl practices.

    Running back Byron Marshall returns to the field Monday after sitting out most of the Arizona game and all of the OSU game with an injury. He says it's imperative for the running game to click; when the Ducks lose games, it's partly because the opponent contains the running game.

    "The passing game will always be there," Marshall says. "Marcus is great at what he does. Receivers Josh (Huff), Keanon (Lowe), Bralon (Addison), Daryle (Hawkins) ... as long as we get the running game going, it's a dual threat. With Marcus running, it's a triple threat. It's hard for any defense to stop.

    "Everyone's healthy and fired up and ready to go. We're ready to play, really."

  • • Ekpre-Olomu says he hasn't decided whether to enter the NFL draft.

    "I'm going to wait probably until I have a time to sit down with my family and actually think things through," he says.

    Fellow cornerback Mitchell and slash player Thomas also are considering leaving early for the NFL draft.

  • Texas has 120 players on its roster, and only 12 hail from outside the state. That's 108 players from the state of Texas on the roster.

    Huff, from Houston, wanted to play for the Longhorns, but the school opted not to recruit him heavily. Huff says most prep players want to play at Texas.

    "All the great players that have been through Texas, it's what a little kid would dream about — being a great player at the University of Texas," he says.

    Huff's cousin, Michael Huff, played for the Longhorns. Josh Huff grew up watching Vince Young, Jamaal Charles, Ricky Williams, Jordan Shipley, Derrick Johnson and others.

    "Sometimes they miss out on guys, like Bralon and myself, Torrodney (Prevot), LaMichael (James) and Darron (Thomas) — the list goes on," Huff says.

    Huff still carries his state of Texas pride with him, saying that hotbeds of California and Florida only wish they could topple the Lone Star state as the best place for prep football.

    "It'll be Texas No. 1, always," he says.

    Huff, by the way, only knows one player on the current UT roster: defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. Shows how big the state is.