Thursday, November 4, 2010

Huskies take on #1 nationally ranked Oregon: Flashback to the glory days

By Kshell

When the Washington Huskies(3-5,2-3) travel down to Eugene to take on the #1 Oregon Ducks(8-0,5-0) this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on ABC. This game will signify just how far the Huskies program has fallen. The Huskies will enter this game without senior quarterback Jake Locker and will be 35 point underdogs. Losing Locker is the least of Steve Sarkisian's problems at the moment. There has been questions circling around if the team has quit on Sarkisian given they were just shutout at home for the first time since 1976. The Huskies have been outscored 85-14 the last two weeks and haven't scored in over six quarters of play.

The Huskies must now face the best offense they'll face all year. Through eight games this year the Ducks have outscored their opponents 439-143 which is an average score of 54.8-17.8. In Pac-10 play the Ducks are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 250-130 which is an average score of 50.0-26.0. So teams have been able to score on the Ducks defense but unfortunetly for every opponent unless you are scoring over 50 points you simply aren't beating this team. The Ducks have been challenged in a few games this year but every time they blow the game wide open in the fourth quarter. This is one of the most explosive offensives in Pac-10 history.

The Huskies will be starting a freshman quarterback in Keith Price down in Autzen Stadium for his first career start. This has the feel of a game that could get very ugly really soon. This series lately has been pretty one sided. Not only have the Ducks dominated lately winning six in a row but the Huskies haven't been within 20 points in any of those games. The Ducks have outscored the Huskies 252-104 which is an average score of 42-17.3.

This rivalry has changed gone are the days in 1991 when the Huskies would win 29-7 over the Ducks and feel dissapointed. While Don James was at Washington he went 15-3 against the Ducks and just dominated them. The Huskies outscored the Ducks during that era 453-229 which was an average score of 25.2-12.7. Yes the Huskies have allowed more points in the last six seasons to the Ducks than they did in 18 years under the legendary coach of Don James. When the Huskies beat the Ducks in the Don James years it wasn't a big deal it was expected. Husky fans never once got excited beating them. It was routine to beat up on the Oregon schools(James was 15-1 against Oregon State).

That all changed in 1994. Then second year head coach Jim Lambright who had defeated the Ducks the year before 21-6 took his 9th ranked team in the country down to Eugene. The powerful Huskies (5-1,2-1) were expected to beat the Ducks(4-3,2-1) again. This same Huskies team beat #16 Ohio State 25-16 and then delivered the shocker of all defeating #5 Miami Hurricanes in Miami ending their 58 game home winning streak. The Oregon Ducks were just 4-3,2-1 in Pac-10 play but one of those wins was against Portland State. In fact Oregon had already lost to Hawaii who finished 3-5-1 and in last place in the Wac, also had lost to Utah at home 34-16. They also lost to Washington State 21-7 but they did beat #19 USC in USC 22-7.

With the Huskies holding onto a 20-17 lead the Ducks drove 99 yards to take the lead back 24-20 behind quarterback Danny O'Neil(Last losing player to win Rose Bowl MVP btw). The crowd was smelling upset but the Huskies were driving down the field led by Damon Huard. With first and goal from the eight yard line instead of handing off to Napoleon Kaufman the Huskies instead threw an out route which was jumped by Kenny Wheaton who ran all the way for a touchdown to give the Ducks an upset 31-20 win. The Ducks would follow up that win with a win over #11 Arizona the following week 10-9. The Ducks won the rest of their games and went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1940's. The "pick" as it's referred to now was the turning point in the Oregon football program. That play is played before every home game at Autzen Stadium.

The rivalry officially had begun before either school had realized it. Then in 1995 the 19th ranked Ducks invaded Seattle to take on the 15th ranked Huskies. The Ducks led 24-0 at halftime but the Huskies rallied back to pull within 24-22 but missed two field goals inside 40 yards. Had either kick gone through the Huskies advance to the Rose Bowl instead the Ducks had just beaten them two years in a row. Despite finishing ahead of the Ducks in the conference the Cotton Bowl selected Oregon over Washington to get the rivalry heated. The following year in Eugene the Huskies got revenge as the 23rd ranked Huskies led by Corey Dillon destroyed the Ducks 33-14. The Huskies finished second in the Pac-10 and the Ducks finished with a losing season under second year head coach Mike Bellotti. It had appeared Oregon's little run had ended.

The Huskies came into the 1997 Oregon game as heavy favorites having just shutout USC the previous week. The Huskies came into the game injured starting true freshman Marques Tuiasosopo in place of Brock Huard and Maurice Shaw filled in for Rashaan Shehee. The Huskies had won 5 games in a row while Oregon had lost 4 in a row .The Huskies were still favored by 24 points but found themselves trailing 24-6 at halftime. Then Tuiasosopo hit Ja'Warren Hooker for a 41 yard touchdown pass to complete the comeback and give the Huskies a 28-24 lead. The only problem is Oregon had the ball.

Oregon drove down the field behind future #3 pick overall Akili Smith. Smith facing a 3rd and 20 found Pat Johnson for the game winning 29 yard touchdown pass. The Ducks took the lead and won the game 31-28. This would mark the third time in a four span that Lambright would lose to his rival the Ducks. The Huskies would go on to lose their final two games of the year and their rose bowl hopes were dashed.

Then in 1998 the 21st ranked Ducks defeated the Huskies down in Autzen Stadium 27-22 beating the Huskies four out of five years. Most importantly the rivalry had started to shift in Oregon's favor. So despite posting a 44-25-1 record and 31-16-1 in Pac-10 play Jim Lambright was fired. Losing four out of five to Oregon was unacceptable. Now that wasn't the only reason Lambright was fired but that was a primary reason. The fans had turned on Lambright.

The Huskies fired Lambright and brought in Rick Neuheisel. The rivalry reach an all-time peak during the Neuheisel years. Him and Bellotti hated each other as Neuheisel ran a fake punt against Oregon in the 1996 Cotton Bowl and defeated Oregon 38-6. Then in Neuheisel last game at Colorado defeated Oregon again in the 1998 Aloha Bowl 51-43. Right away you can feel the tension when Bellotti reported Neuheisel for recruiting violation. That set up the showdown in Seattle when the Huskies upset 25th ranked Oregon 34-20. Showing the Ducks yes there is a new man in charge. Neuheisel had improved to be 3-0 vs Bellotti. That changed the following year when 20th ranked Oregon upset #6 Washington 23-16. The Huskies would still go on to the Rose Bowl and finish the year 11-1 ranked 3rd in the nation. Oregon would finish 10-2 ranked 8th in the nation.

In 2001 the teams didn't play each other. Oregon finished that year 11-1 ranked 2nd in the nation while Washington was 8-4 and took second in the Pac-10. In 2002 the Huskies were picked to win the Pac-10 but it was the Oregon Ducks who started off hot winning their first six games to go 6-0 and were ranked 6th in the nation. While the Huskies started off slow after blowing the Michigan game in the famous 12 men on the field play. The Huskies were 4-5 to begin the year looking like they were going to suffer their first losing season since 1976 when Don James was just in his second season. Then Rick Neuheisel claimed the Huskies will win the "Northwest Championship". To motivate his team and the Huskies ended the season with Oregon State, at #23 Oregon and then at #3 Washington State. His motivations were one for one as the Huskies on Senior night defeated the Beavers 41-29 setting up the showdown in Autzen.

November 16th, 2002: Washington Huskies(5-5,2-4) at #23 Oregon Ducks(7-3, 3-3)

The Huskies had to beat either Oregon in Oregon or Washington State in Pullman to secure a non losing season. The Cougars were ranked in the top five in the nation at the time while the Ducks were ranked so both scenarios seemed very unlikely. The Huskies came into this game with the best passing attack in the nation with Cody Pickett hitting Reggie Williams which was the advantage Rick Neuheisel planned to attack against Oregon who had a small secondary. The Huskies secondary was a bit banged up though as wide receiver Wilbur Hooks was asked to also play some nickel corner and the Huskies were also starting true freshman Nate Robinson. Robinson who now stars in the NBA is such a great athlete he started two sports in the Pac-10 as a true freshman.

The game started off horribly for the Washington Huskies. On the first series Jason Fife found Sammie Parker for an eight yard touchdown who had burned the young freshman Robinson in the process. On the next series the Ducks answered with another score when Fife hit Jason Willis for a 37 yard touchdown pass to give the Ducks a 14-0 lead. The crowd was going crazy as they were smelling another victory over the Huskies who hadn't beaten them in Autzen Stadium since 1996.

The Huskies would finally bounce back behind Pickett's arm and Rich Alexis who had a rare good game. Alexis would score on a five yard touchdown run to close the gap at 14-7 to end the first quarter. The Huskies defense got tough and began shutting down the Oregon offense. Pickett would then tie the score up when he would hit Reggie Williams with a 23 yard touchdown pass. Williams who would have a big day was just getting started as the team headed into the lockeroom tied 14-14.

In a panic move coach Mike Bellotti who had enjoyed great success in his career against the Huskies(9-4, won 5 in a row before retiring) pulled starting quarterback Jason Fife for young freshman quarterback Kellen Clemens. Clemens very first pass was picked off by Derrick Johnson as the Huskies momentum had continued. On the very next play Huskies runningback Alexis ran it in the endzone from 13 yards out to give the Huskies a 21-14 lead.

Things started to unravel for the Ducks whose reliable kicker Jared Siegel missed a 39 yard field goal attempt that would have cut the margain to 21-17. Then reliable punt returner Keenan Howry fumbled a punt giving the Huskies possession again. Pickett capitalized hitting Patrick Reddick for a six yard touchdown pass giving the Huskies a 28-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Ducks feeling the game slipping away pulled Clemens and went back to Fife but by then it was to little to late. The Huskies in the fourth put the game away when Pickett hit Reggie Williams on a slant and Reggie took it all the way to the endzone for a 47 yard touchdown. The Huskies on their next series it was like deja vu all over again. Pickett again hit Williams on a slant for a 41 yard touchdown which had Huskies play by play announcer Bob Rondeau scream "REGGIE HOW GREAT ARE YOU?!". The Huskies had taken a 42-14 lead and had scored the games last 42 points. In fact the game was such a blowout ABC switched the last five minutes of the game to another more competive game.

After the game is when the rivalry tipped the iceberg for hatred. The Huskies celebrated and danced on the Oregon "O" after the game. Took pictures on the field after the game and Braxton Clemens had a Northwest Championship shirt check list with an "X" by Oregon State and then by Oregon. Another signal that times had changed at Washington. Under Lambright or James no such behavior would be allowed but Neuheisel rationalized by saying "it was a tough year".

The final stats for the Huskies were pretty incredible. Cody Pickett finished the game 26 of 37 for 316 yards passing with four touchdowns and just two picks. Reggie Williams would have 14 receptions(school record) for 198 yards(school record) and three touchdowns. The Huskies also had a running game behind Rich Alexis who ran the ball 30 times for 122 yards with two touchdowns. The Huskies defense shut down the Ducks passing attack holding them to 10 for 33 passing for just 170 yards and two interceptions. Cody Pickett also passed Ryan Leaf with 3,818 yards passing on the season to become the all-time passing leader in Pac-10 history.

It was a great victory for the Huskies as beating Oregon mattered while it hadn't under James. It also poured gasoline on the fire in this rivalry. Oregon vowed to get Washington back by dancing on their "O". The following year in 2003 under then first year head coach Keith Gilbertson the struggling Huskies took on the Ducks and found themselves trailing 10-0 and 10-7 at halftime. Then Reggie Williams took over again catching seven passes for 130 yards with a touchdown. The Ducks had vowed they would dance on the Huskies "W" for revenge but instead the Huskies blew the Ducks out yet again 42-10 and it was the Huskies who danced on the "W". That would also be the last time the Huskies would beat the Ducks.

This rivalry has seen a change that is for sure. The Huskies still lead the all-time series 58-39 but before 1994 the Huskies had led 54-28 which looks a lot more dominating. Given that Oregon's high powered offense isn't going away as long as Chip Kelly is there look for Oregon to keep cutting into the all-time series lead. The Huskies without Locker and even if Locker was playing find themselves 35 point underdogs this Saturday. It's not looking very likely that the rivalry is going to change back anytime soon.

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