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Georgia running back Kendall Milton (2) during the Bulldogs’ game with South Carolina in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Oregon Ducks know bad run defense won’t fly against powerful Georgia

ATHENS — If there’s one thing that would ruffle Dan Lanning’s feathers as the new Oregon Ducks head coach, it would be a poor run defense.

Lanning knows better than anyone that if Oregon is to pull an upset over reigning national champion Georgia on Sept. 3, it starts by containing the run game.

Lanning went hard in the portal for defensive line talent and landed Nebraska transfers Jordon Riley (6-5, 330) and Casey Rogers (6-5, 295), and then Washington’s Sam Taimani (6-2, 330) made the move to Eugene.

According to an OregonLive.com report from the weekend:

“No Oregon Ducks position group has been more significantly and enormously enhanced this offseason than the interior defensive line.”

The report went on to state that Oregon starters Brandon Dorlus, Popo Aumavae and Keyon Ware-Hudson all missed spring following winter surgeries and have returned to the field.

RELATED: Dan Lanning confident Oregon has team to beat Georgia, win title

Lanning competed with Todd Monken offenses in Georgia practices often enough to know that what he saw in the G-Day Game was no mirage.

If UGA doesn’t run the ball effectively, Stetson Bennett is not nearly as much of a threat throwing the football.

Smart explained after Bennett struggled in the G-Day Game why this is the case.

“When you put them in a situation where it’s pass-happy type environment, it changes the D-line’s demeanor,” Smart said, “so there’s no real run game to slow guys down and everybody is pinning their ears back.”

That’s the scenario that played out in the SEC Championship Game, and the situation that Lanning would like to recreate in that very same Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the teams meet.

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The Ducks’ fans don’t have to look back too far to be reminded of how the inability to stop the run last season cost Oregon what would have been its second appearance in the College Football Playoffs.

The Ducks were ranked No. 3 when they lost to No. 23 Utah by a stunning 38-7 count last Nov. 20.

The Utes out-rushed the Ducks 208-63.

The teams met again in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 3, and the result was remarkably similar: Utah 38, Oregon 10, the Utes with a 191-74 rushing advantage.

And now here comes Georgia with its powerful offensive line and Goliath tight ends to defend, along with a stable of running backs that can run between the tackles or catch the ball out of the backfield.

Lanning knows there is work to do after inheriting a program that ranked 53rd in the nation in run defense last season, allowing 144.1 per game.

Lanning’s Georgia defense, by contrast, was second in the country at 78.9 per game en route to the CFP Championship.

Oregon has a former national championship defensive coordinator of its own in Tosh Lupoi, who coached at Alabama from 2014 to 2018, his final season as the DC.

“I think toughness will come along with as you do it each day,” Lupoi said, per OregonLive.com. “Can we wake up? Can we come to the meetings with the right intensity? Can we have the attention to detail that’s required? Can we mentally lock in when we need to?

“And then when we get out on the field can we execute it with some physicality violence.”

That will be a must against Georgia, which once against has one of the most powerful and athletic teams in college football.

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