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UO defense sends Aliotti out with a bang
Release Date: 12/30/2013
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by Rob Moseley

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Avery Patterson started the game with a pick-six, and Derrick Malone ended it with another, despite a severe knee injury suffered in the Civil War.

Taylor Hart tallied a career-high 11 tackles to lead the Ducks, and Wade Keliikipi added a career-high seven of his own. Yes, the UO defense certainly seemed ready to play for Monday's Alamo Bowl.

"I think they wanted to get this one for me," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti acknowledged, somewhat sheepishly. "There was a lot of love for me after the game."

When it was over, and No. 10 Oregon had completed a 30-7 victory over Texas, Aliotti was showered with the contents of an ice bucket. The culprits were Patterson and fellow safety Erick Dargan, like Aliotti natives of Pittsburg, Calif.

On a night that was supposed to be Texas coach Mack Brown's in-state going-away party, the Ducks instead stole the thunder by sending their defensive coordinator off into retirement in memorable fashion.

"That's the first person I thought about when I caught the ball," Patterson said of his interception on the Longhorns' first possession, which he returned for a touchdown. "I wanted to score for him."

Patterson's pick-six was one of two for the defense on the night, one more trip to the end zone than the Oregon offense managed Monday. A unit that was much maligned this season was able to stop the run after halftime, helped the Ducks win the turnover battle and was sharp on third down, an issue in losses at Stanford and Arizona.

Texas ran for 4.1 yards per carry, 180 total yards on 44 rushes, with 125 coming in the first half. The Longhorns gashed the Ducks on their lone touchdown drive in the first quarter, with backup Malcolm Brown running nine times for 52 yards on the possession.

The irony was, that drive featured the only time the Ducks unveiled a new wrinkle they installed in December, a "heavy" package that featured four down linemen, four linebackers and just three defensive backs. The Longhorns ran three times for 17 yards in three snaps against the eight-man front, including a nine-yard gain by Brown on third-and-two and a one-yard touchdown by quarterback Case McCoy.

That was it for the "heavy" package, and for the most part that was it for Texas' success rushing the ball.

"We went back to doing what we do," Aliotti said. "And what we do got us 11 wins."

The Ducks kept Texas off the scoreboard the rest of the day, benefitting from a few timely drops by Longhorns receivers but also getting huge games from stalwarts like Hart and Keliikipi. They survived some shuffling at inside linebacker, with Joe Walker starting there after Malone missed most of December's practices due to his knee injury.

"I didn't think I was going to play, the whole (month), for the most part," Malone said, adding in the postgame locker room that, "right now, (the knee) is killing me."

It wasn't an issue during the game, however, particularly on a 38-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to cap the game's scoring.

Malone said special teams coach Tom Osborne challenged him to score this season, after Malone's good friend and fellow linebacker Rodney Hardrick did so at Stanford. Malone had a chance on an interception against Washington State but couldn't find the end zone.

"It took a while, but I finally did," Malone said with a wide smile.

Trailing in the second half, the Longhorns turned to dual-threat quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, a wrinkle Aliotti prepared his defense for this month.

"It was two different systems" depending on whether Swoopes or McCoy was in the games, Walker said. "We just had to kind of tell ourselves, 'OK, we're playing this system now.'"

Swoopes ended up running eight times for 38 yards — 26 on one play in the fourth quarter — while completing one pass for eight yards.

The play on which Swoopes gained 26 yards ate at Aliotti, and he said he should have called a different defense. But later in the drive, Hart teamed with Christian French to stop Brown for no gain, and Aliotti's smile from his seat in the coaches' box was visible all the way down on the field.

"He didn't want this to be about him," Patterson said. "But all us defensive players, we knew it was for him, and we wanted to send him off the right way."

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