Keyen Lage knows going toe-to-toe against one of the top-ranked offenses in college football isn’t going to be easy, but he doesn’t plan to leave Eugene, Oregon with his head hanging.
Entering his third season as linebacker for the University of South Dakota, Lage said the Coyote defense will be walking into Saturday’s season opener against No. 3 Oregon with something to prove against the Ducks’ high-paced offense led by Heisman-candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“It’d be awesome if any one of our guys got an interception or a sack and use that confidence we get from this game — from getting a sack on potentially the No. 1 QB taken in the draft next year — and move forward into the next games,” Lage said.
In order to mimic the expedited, no-huddle offense of the Ducks, Lage said the defense has been making adjustments during its first practices against the new, quick scout offense.
Defenders will need all the preparation they can handle. Oregon ranked second in overall offense across the nation in 2013 with 7,345 total yards while averaging a fourth-best 45.5 points per game.
Lage said the speed and intensity the defense will need to keep up with Oregon will help the Coyotes later on in the season.
“We aren’t going to play a team that’s faster than Oregon the rest of the season, so every team we play from now on will be a lot slower,” he said.
Coyote defenders aren’t the only ones with the Duck’s high-caliber offense on their minds. Junior wide receiver Josh Vander Maten said he and the rest of the offense will need to be ready at all times.
“Their offense moves so fast, so that means as an offense we have to be ready,” Vander Maten said. “The game’s speed will be sped up very, very much. Being in shape and mentally prepared will get us ready.”
The Oregon defense is no joking matter either, returning five starters from the 2013 squad that allowed a 13th best 20.5 points in 2013.
Compare that to the Coyote offense, which put up an average of 17.5 points per game in 2013.
However, a revamped offense relying on the power running game of halfbacks Trevor Bouma and Jordan Roberts, complemented by the more confident arm of quarterback Kevin Earl, shot life into the Coyote’s offense midway through the 2013 season.
Much of the USD offense remains intact heading into 2014, excluding the departure of wide receiver Terrence Terry and tight end Tyler Wilhelm.
The team will also start two new offensive linemen at center and right guard, senior offensive lineman Andrew Schofield said.
Schofield said the Oregon match-up will provide necessary experience into the two new starters at center and right guard in 2014.
“Going in there is going to be fun,” he said. “They are a great team and we love to show how good the Missouri Valley is and how well we can compete. We were picked eighth in the conference this year, and we’ve never been picked high and we know we are better than that, so we will go into every game with a chip on our shoulder.”
Kickoff in Eugene, Oregon is set for 9:30 p.m. CT. The game will be aired on the Pac-12 Network.