Youthful Linemen Get Job Done

Young Duck linemen were forced into action vs. Cal

Oregon put everybody they had on the traveling squad on the defensive line versus California: three true freshmen (one burning his redshirt year to play), a couple of walk-ins, and even a defensive-end gone tight-end, now defensive-end again—at least for a night.

BERKELEY, Calif.- The makeshift group got it done when it counted most, holding the Golden Bears to just one score in the second half and only 36 yards rushing in the final fifteen minutes.

Veteran linemen Dion Jordan, Ricky Heimuli and Isaac Remington all made the trip, and Junior Taylor Hart the lone upperclassmen remaining started the game before an apparent ankle injury forced him to sit out the second half. Junior Wade Keliikipi did not make the trip, and some speculation indicates that he may miss the remainder of the regular season.

In their place were sophomores Tony Washington and walk-on David Kafovalu, redshirt freshmen Christian French, Sam Kamp and Koa Kai'ai and true freshmen Arik Armstead, DeForrest Buckner and Alex Balducci.

But it was next man up for the Ducks.

"Those guys aren't used to starting games, they're used to garbage time," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "They stepped up and did a great job."

Washington had four tackles including a quarterback hit, Buckner three tackles, a few in key situations and an Armstead pass-rush led to arguably the game's biggest a turning point, a Boseko Lokombo interception midway through the third quarter.

"It's very gratifying, because those kids, in the grand scheme of things, did an outstanding job," Aliotti said.

Balducci's presence on the field was especially significant, because it signaled the freshman from Central Catholic's waiving of what had been a planned redshirt year.

The four-star recruit has gained considerable weight since his senior season and that girth up front may be of vast importance over the final few weeks.

The sophomore Kai had switched to offense in the off-season after starting his career on defense. His progression offensively had been enough to earn him the start versus Tennessee Tech earlier this season.

But on Saturday it was back to his roots, and head coach Chip Kelly praised his efforts, considering he had only switched to defense on Wednesday of this week, the equivalent of one day of practice.

With the Stanford Cardinal and their physical front and stable of running backs, the Ducks will need to heal in the interim. The status of Jordan, Heimuli, Remington and Hart are uncertain.

The first three were suited up to begin the game, even lightly participating in warm-ups, before staying on the sidelines for its entirety. Hart ended the game in sweats with a boot on his left foot.

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