September 15, 2017
The numbers will tell you what Josh Allen has done so far in his Wyoming career.
In his first season as a starter last fall, the junior college transfer completed 209-of-373 passes (56 percent) for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions. Through two games in 2017, entering Saturday’s showdown with visiting Oregon (4 p.m. PT, CBS Sports Network), the 6-foot-5, 233-pound junior is 45-of-72 for 502 yards, with two touchdowns and a pair of picks.
That’s what Allen, a projected top pick in the 2018 NFL draft, has done. Ask an Oregon coach, and he’ll tell you how Allen has gone about accomplishing all that.
“He’s one of the best in the business,” UO outside linebackers coach Raymond Woodie said. “When you see him throwing the ball on his front foot, off his back foot, throwing to the opposite hash; laser, rocket arm; hitting guys in the chest. He’s a big-time player.”
Fortunately for Woodie, he’s coaching a couple of guys who are in the early stages of big-time seasons of their own. The two outside linebackers in Oregon’s base defense, senior Jonah Moi and junior Justin Hollins, have recorded a sack apiece in each of the Ducks’ two victories to open the year.
Against more wide-open offenses, UO defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt can field his “Duck” package with a smaller, quicker player like La’Mar Winston Jr. or Fotu T. Leiato II at one outside linebacker spot. But against Wyoming on Saturday, the Ducks figure to lean heavily on their base and nickel packages, both of which feature Hollins and Moi as bookends in the front seven.
“Games like this, you’ve got to be disciplined,” Woodie said. “If you overplay and try to get a hit on him, he’ll spin out. So we have to be disciplined in our rush lanes. Make a cup in the pocket, and try to force him to make bad throws.”
Moi did exactly that on Nebraska’s final snap last week in Autzen Stadium. With the Ducks desperately clinging to a 42-35 lead in the waning moments, Moi found himself matched up 1-on-1 with a tight end.
Big enough — 6-4, 240 pounds — to have played end in the 4-3 defense Oregon fielded last season, Moi got excellent push on the blocker. So much so that he was able to hit the throwing arm of Huskers quarterback Tanner Lee, inducing a wobbly throw that Ugochukwu Amadi picked off to clinch a UO win.
Woodie says he preaches to his guys the “five A’s” – alignment, assignment, adjustment, alert, attack. That play by Moi was all “E” – as in effort.
“Coach Leavitt is just putting us in the right places,” Moi said. “I think it’s a really good scheme against a lot of the offenses we play against. I just feel like, if I do my job, it’s going to come out in our favor.”
Moi also had a sack in Oregon’s opener against Southern Utah. Ditto Hollins, a starting end last season who also moved back to his more natural outside linebacker position in Leavitt’s 3-4, and is thriving.
Since quarterback sacks became an official statistic in 1980, the Ducks have never had two players record double-digit sacks in the same season. At this rate, Moi and Hollins would become the first.
They’ll continue to take it one game at a time. Beginning Saturday at Wyoming, against the Cowboys and their talented quarterback, Allen.
“He’s very elusive,” Hollins said. “He’s a bigger guy. He’s stronger. So it’s going to be a challenge this week.”
Through two games in 2017, Hollins and his bookend Moi have been up to the challenge of setting the edge on defense for Oregon. They’ll try to keep it rolling Saturday.
“He’s a really good quarterback,” Moi said. “It’s always nice to play against someone like that. He’s big, and can break tackles. If we can get ahold of him, we’ve got to make the most of our opportunities.”