by Rob Moseley
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Nick Aliotti can nitpick with the best of them. Oregon's defensive coordinator wants a shutout every time out. If he doesn't get it, that means there's something that went wrong, even if it came in a big win for the Ducks.
On Saturday, however, Aliotti was able to appreciate the big picture. Yes, for the second straight week his defense had given up several passing plays underneath the coverage. But for the second straight week, that had happened in a lopsided outcome, in this case a 59-10 win over Virginia in Scott Stadium.
"I'm OK with that," Aliotti said. "When our offense is ahead and we've got the big lead, (if) they've got to take time to score, yeah, I'm OK with that. Because the bottom line is, win the game. And we did that."
The Cavaliers' most effective weapon Saturday was tight end Jake McGee, who caught eight passes. Another tight end, Zachary Swanson, caught four others, as Virginia repeatedly targeted them on shorter and midrange routes.
That success on intermediate passing routes followed Oregon's opener in which Nicholls was pretty much only able to consistently move the ball by dumping off to its running backs. But the Ducks have allowed few big plays through two games, and on Saturday the Cavaliers averaged just 3.7 yards per passing attempt and 5.6 yards per completion, which Aliotti called "like, in a whole 'nother stratosphere."
McGee and Swanson might have combined for 12 receptions, but they yielded a modest 96 yards.
And Oregon could pride itself on eventually taking away even that threat late in the game. The UO linebackers paid more attention to Virginia's tight ends as the game wore on, and middle linebacker Rodney Hardrick parlayed that into an interception in the third quarter, the first of his career.
"(McGee) was really good once he got downfield," Hardrick said. "So we played a little differently, and it worked out."
(Hardrick also sheepishly acknowledged realizing once he got off the field that the Ducks would have had better field position had he simply knocked down that fourth-down pass, rather than intercept it.)
Aliotti's adjustments Saturday also included the rotation at outside linebacker. A week after starters Boseko Lokombo and Tony Washington essentially played the entire first three quarters, Tyson Coleman moved back to outside linebacker for practices this week, and played there extensively Saturday in place of each starter.
"I'm more comfortable at outside; that's what I know," said Coleman, who played there all of last season but moved inside for the Nicholls game. "I know inside — I know the gist of it. If I had to play it, I feel like I could. But I'm definitely more comfortable outside."
Coleman finished with one tackle off the bench Saturday, while Lokombo had seven and Washington had four. Derrick Malone led the Ducks for the second straight game, with 12.
Aliotti said that "slowly but surely" one of Torrodney Prevot, Christian French or Oshay Dunmore figures to develop into a fourth option for the rotation outside.