By Ryan Thorburn

The (Eugene) Register-Guard

Next up

Oregon at No. 23 Stanford

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

TV: FS1

Line: Cardinal by 10½

EUGENE — After fielding one of the worst defenses in the nation over the past two seasons, Oregon has shown dramatic improvement under coordinator Jim Leavitt.

Midway through the season, the Ducks lead the FBS in sacks (24), rank sixth in tackles for loss (40) and 29th in total yards allowed (338.3 per game).

Under Brady Hoke in 2016, Oregon finished 71st in sacks (25 all season), 106th in tackles for loss (61) and 126th in yards allowed (518.4 ypg).

Leavitt is far from satisfied with the turnaround as Oregon prepares for Saturday’s bruising matchup at No. 23 Stanford.

“We’ve just got to get better on defense,” Leavitt said. “They’re trying, they really are. Great group of guys.”

Starting defensive ends Henry Mondeaux and Jalen Jelks have consistently played at a high level through six games. The coaches are also pleased with the performance of true freshmen nose guards Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu.

Scott Pagano, Malik Young and other backups must elevate their play to get more snaps, according to defensive line coach Joe Salave’a.

“You put it on film, you earn your play,” Salave’a said. “Those guys understand we’re not going to compromise the level of play, the quality of play. They’re understanding every day is an interview.

“As we move forward, they’re coming around. Some faster than others.”

The defense has a big task ahead of it to match the bruising offense of Stanford and running back Bryce Love, who is averaging more than 200 yards per game.

“We’re trying to show everyone that we’re not a soft team,” linebacker Troy Dye said. “And we respect the hell out of them.”

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