Friday, October 15, 2010

Huskies take on Beavers flashbacks to thrilling 2000 game

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(2-3,1-1) host the #24 Oregon State Beavers(3-2,2-0) this Saturday for homecoming at Husky Stadium. The Huskies are hoping to end a six game losing streak to the Beavers including four which took place at Husky Stadium. This rivalry has certainly changed quite a bit this decade. The Huskies had a stretch from 1975 to 2003 where they only lost to the Beavers two times. Oregon State was a terrible program for nearly three decades. The Beavers were the school you had hoped you played on the road because you were going to destroy them no matter where they played. Don James went 14-1 against the Beavers in his Husky coaching career the man who replaced James, Jim Lambright went 6-0 against the Beavers.

It was in Jim Lambrights last year when the rivalry and the Oregon State program started to change a bit. It was in 1998 and the Huskies were 4-2 entering that game and hosting the Beavers meant another easy win. Brock Huard had returned from injury so he'd most likely rack up some numbers then turn the game over to electric sophomore Marques Tuiasosopo. Huard would have a fine game in his return throwing for 260 yards and four touchdowns on the day. His back up Tuiasosopo would run for a 41 yard touchdown and the Huskies led 35-14. The Huskies were also wearing the ugly purple helmets combined with the white pants this game. It was another standard game against the Beavers where the Huskies were destroying them. Then something happened head coach Mike Riley switched quarterbacks he went with freshman Jonathan Smith who at best 5'8". Thats when the game changed and Beaver fortunes changed forever.

Smith started throwing bombs all over the field. He would hook up with Ronnie Tompkins for a 90 yard touchdown along with hooking up with Greg Ainsworths for an 80 yard touchdown. Smith would end up throwing for 469 yards which is a record against the Huskies. Smith lead the Beavers down for another touchdown making the game 35-34. On the road going for the upset against the heavy favorites Riley decided to go for two. Huskies captain and current Portland State Head Coach Nigel Burton knocked down the two point pass and the Huskies had survived the game to improve to 5-2.

The Huskies "won" the game and the Beavers had "lost" the game that day but it didn't feel that way given how the programs were at the time. Huskies would finish the year a lowly 6-6 by their standards and Jim Lambright would be fired. While Oregon State almost had its first winning season since 1970 they just missed it going 5-6. The Beavers had almost knocked off #1 ranked UCLA later in the year and did upset state rival the Oregon Ducks. Going 5-6 at Oregon State was so unheard of that Mike Riley was offered the San Diego Chargers job which he accepted. Thats how much the programs were different one coach went 5-6 and got a promotion while the other coach went 6-6 and was fired. This game would set up to be the biggest game in this rivalry just two years later only nobody knew it at the time.

October 7th, 2000: #23 Oregon State(4-0,1-0) at #13 Washington(3-1,0-1)

Times had changed in the culture of Oregon State in just the two years that had passed by. Dennis Erickson who had been fired from the Seahawks after four mediocre seasons was hired by Oregon State heading into the 1999 season. Erickson who had won two national championships at Miami knew how to do one thing and one thing only in college and that was to win. In his first year with mostly Riley's recruits in 1999 he guided the Beavers to a 7-3 start and eventually a 7-5 record. The crowds were storming the fields as that was the Beavers first winning season since 1970. The Beavers head into this game shocking the #18 USC trojans who were picked to finish second in the Pac-10 the previous week. They faced the team who had been picked to win the conference in the Washington Huskies.

The Huskies were in a similar stage as well. Tired of going 7-4 every year and second rate bowl games the school fired Jim Lambright and his 44-25 record(.637%). The Huskies hired away young coach Rick Neuheisel who was 33-14(.702%) while at Colorado and was 3-0 in bowl games. In Neuheisel's first year he led the Huskies to a 7-5 record but the Huskies beat the Ducks, Beavers and Cougars all in the same season for only the second time since 1994. The Huskies had also finished second in the Pac-10 that year. With tons of players returning including star quarter back Marques Tuiasosopo the Huskies had tons of hope heading into the season.

Unlike the Beavers who had a soft non conference schedule the Huskies did not. The Huskies faced 4th ranked Miami Hurricanes at Husky Stadium the second game of the year. The Hurricanes that year featured such NFL players as Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne and Jeremy Shockey among many more. The Huskies had upset the Hurricanes that day 34-29 in a game that was led by the Huskies 28-9 at one point. The Huskies then took their act on the road and faced Colorado in Colorado. That was a hostile environment for Neuheisal and the Huskies won 17-14. The Huskies magic would run out in their Pac-10 opener in Autzen stadium trailing 23-3 at one point but battled back to lose 23-16 at #9 Oregon. Setting up this game which at the time didn't appear big. It was big for Washington in the sense that a loss here and the Rose Bowl hopes would be dashed.

This game was a night game in Husky Stadium and had many Beaver fans packing the stadium in Orange in both endzones hoping for their first win over the Huskies since 1985. The Beavers who had now junior quarterback Jonathan Smith went down and scored on their first possession. Smith hit Robert Prescott for a 48 yard pass to give the Beavers a quick 7-0 lead. The Huskies would answer back when Tuiasosopo would hit freshman Justin Robbins for a 16 yard touchdown pass to even the score at seven. Before the end of the quarter Patrick McCall would bust a 43 yard touchdown run. McCall who had transfered from Michigan was trying to win two Rose Bowls with two different teams. He was backing up junior sensation Ken Simonton. Simonton would rush for 104 yards on 23 carries(4.5 YPC) while McCall had 89 yards on 11 carries(8.1 YPC). The Beavers led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The Huskies knowing that the Beavers liked to blitz a ton used their screen game to their advantage. Then starting running back Paul Arnold would end up with 7 receptions for 65 yards. The Huskies were without their fullback so backup running back Braxton Cleman played fullback. Cleman would rush 31 yards on 6 carries(5.2 YPC) and would catch a pass for 8 yards. The Huskies drove down the field and tied the game on a one yard touchdown run by freshman Rich Alexis. After Jon Anderson would add two short field goals for the Huskies the Huskies led 20-14 at halftime.

In the third quarter facing a third and goal from the 11 yard line Smith would hit future pro bowl wide receiver T.J.Houshmandzadeh for an 11 yard touchdown pass. Ryan Cesca would make the point after kick and the Beavers would lead 21-20 going into the fourth quarter at Husky Stadium. The team who was picked to win the Pac-10 at the start of the year was looking like they were going to start off 0-2.

The Huskies in the fourth quarter facing a crucial fourth and goal from the one elected to go for it. The Huskies back then had a powerful offensive line and freshman Rich Alexis scored on a one yard run and wasn't even touched. Alexis would end up with two rushing touchdowns and 107 rushing yards on just 12 carries(8.9 YPC). The Huskies leading 26-21 would go for two in trying to go up a touchdown. Instead Tuiasosopo would fumble the snap and the ball would squirt out of the back and the Beavers Heyward-Johnson would scoop it up and run 98 yards for the two point conversation making the game 26-23. The Huskies basically scored a four point touchdown.

The Huskies would drive down the field again using Arnold effectivetly. Arnold along with his receiving totals would end up with 102 yards rushing with 16 carries(6.4 YPC). The drive would end with Tuiasosopo rushing for a four yard touchdown giving the Huskies a 33-23 lead with a little over eight minutes to go. The Beavers facing a third and long on their own 20 and Husky Stadium was going crazy. Jonathan Smith went back to pass facing a blitz unleashes a bomb and loses his shoe in the process and connects with future pro bowl receiver Chad Johnson(now Ocho Cinco) for an 80 yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 33-30.

The Beavers would have the ball last and were driving for at least the tie and possibly the win. The Beavers facing a 2nd and one from the Huskies 24 yard line tried to run the ball for a first down which stops the clock in college. Junior defensive tackle Larry Tripplett blew up Ken Simonton in the backfield for a loss of four yards making the situation third and five which forced the Beavers to spike the ball and set up a 46 yard field goal attempt. Ryan Cesca's kick was wide right and the Huskies had survived the game and won 33-30. It had appeared the Huskies weren't as good as advertised seeing how they lost to Oregon and barely beat Oregon State at home.

Marques Tuiasosopo would finish the game with 20 of 32 passing for 223 yards and 39 yards rushing with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown. His counter part Smith who fell to 0-3 against the Huskies was 13 of 24 for 314 yards and three passing touchdowns. In fact both teams would combine for 978 yards of total offense including 504 by the Huskies. The Huskies also grounded out 281 yards against the Beavers defense which was pretty stout the rest of the year. As for the future NFL receivers Houshmandzadeh would end up with five receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Chad Johnson would have just two receptions but 116 yards and a touchdown.

The Huskies would finish the year 11-1 with a 34-24 Rose Bowl win over Purdue. The Huskies were in the Rose Bowl because of these same Beavers who intercepted Joey Harrington five times and beat the Ducks. The Beavers would finish 11-1 spanking Notre Dame 41-9 in the fiesta bowl. The Huskies would finish the year ranked 3rd in the nation while the Beavers would finish 4th in the AP poll and 5th in the coaches. This was the year of the Northwest Schools as the Oregon Ducks would finish the year 10-2 and ranked 8th in the nation.

Flash forward to ten years later and the rivalry has completely changed. The Beavers would finally get their win over the Huskies the following year spanking the #8 Huskies on senior day 49-24. The Beavers had lofty expectations heading into the 2001 season but failed to live up to them and finished 5-6. Both programs would again change coaches at the same time. The Huskies would fire Rick Neuheisel in June of 2003 due to a gambling pool in the NCAA tournament amongst other things. The Beavers head coach Dennis Erickson would leave them after four seasons and fired Chargers coach Mike Riley would return. Riley in his second go around has dominated the Huskies going 6-1.

The Beavers onced blocked a punt to beat the Huskies in Husky Stadium 21-20 in 1985 when they were 38.5 point underdogs. It was a miracle win and the only loss of Don James career to the Beavers. Now head coach Mike Riley chants "We always beat the Huskies" or "We always beat the Huskies in Husky Stadium". He can say that now because times have changed which is sad to so many Husky fans. I hope you enjoyed another trip down memory lane and remember things can always change back. Go Dawgs!

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