You may have noticed that it is Oregon week and we have plenty of guests from the South visiting the blog this week. I want to thank all of them for stopping by and bringing a lot of good stuff to the table. This is a big game for the fans of both schools and over the years it has become quite the rivarly.
Although the schools began playing each other in 1900, the rivalry began in 1948, when Oregon and the University of California tied for the best record in the old PCC . The winner of the PCC, as is today with the Pac-10, would go on to play in the Rose Bowl. The tiebreaker format the PCC elected to use was that the championship team be elected by the schools.
In the PCC there were 10 teams, 6 of them were in the northwest and the other 4 in California, so it was assumed that Oregon would be the team playing in the Rose Bowl. Instead California was voted champion of the PCC because the University of Washington had talked the University of Montana, then a member of the PCC, into voting for California, something that has not been forgotten by Oregon fans.
Over the last 60 years the rivalry has grown between the two fanbases. In 1962, Larry Hill, of Oregon, was tackled by Washington fans who had rushed onto the field while he was trying to catch the game winning touchdown.
In 1973 the Ducks led by the great Dan Fouts routed the Huskies 58-0. In 1974 Washington returned the favor with a 66-0 rout of their own during Jim Owens last season as head coach. Owens made sure his team scored more than 58 points which was a sore point with quacker backers.
In 1975 the Don James era started at Washington. The Huskies would win five games in a row before finally losing to the Ducks 34-10 in 1980. I was at that game and a guy named Reggie Ogburn could do no wrong that day.
The Huskies would win six more games in row against Oregon before dropping back to back games in 1987 and 1988. The Huskies then put together another string of five straight wins against Oregon to close out the Don James era.
Duck fans back in those days complained about something called Washington arrogance. Washington expected to beat the Ducks and during Don James tenure they were 14-3 against their neighbors to the South.
Things began to change in 1994 when Kenny Wheaton made a play now infamously known as the pick. All modern Oregon football history seems to have started with this play. Washington was driving inside the Oregon ten yard line for the usual game winning TD when Wheaton intercepted Damon Huard at the goal line and returned the ball 91 yards for the winning touchdown.
In 1995, Washington head coach, Jim Lambright, lobbied for the Huskies to be selected to play in the Cotton Bowl instead of the Ducks. He was unsuccessful but Duck fans were not amused.
The rivalry was given a boost, at least in Oregon eyes, when former Colorado Buffaloes head coach Rick Neuheisel was named head coach of Washington 1999. It was Neuheisel who called for a fake punt during the 1996 Cotton Bowl between Oregon and Colorado while the Buffaloes led 38-6.
Oregon fans were also accused of turning Neuheisel in for recruiting during the dead period. The Ducks went 1-2 against Neuheisel-coached Washington teams. The rivalry grew even more when Coach Neuheisel celebrated by taking photos and jumping up and down on the "O" in the middle of the field after a win against Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon comes to Seattle on Saturday sporting a five game winning streak over Washington. Oregon has won 10 of the last 14 games in the series.
The last time the Huskies won against Oregon was in 2003 under Coach Keith Gilbertson. Casey Paus led Washington to victory in the second half by engineering a strong running game which ended up blowing the Ducks away 42-10 while the usual startting QB Cody Pickett sat out on the sidelines with an injury.
The Dawgs under Ty Willingham never performed well against the Ducks. Tyrone's trademark at UW were teams who played without fire and emotion. Surprisingly the team they played with the least fire and emotion was arch rival Oregon. The Huskies never played a competitive game against the Ducks with Willingham at the helm.
Washington fans hope that all starts to change this weekend under the leadership of new Husky coach Steve Sarkisian. Winning consistently in the Pac 10 starts with taking care of business in your own neighborhood. Sarkisian is keenly aware of what a victory over Oregon or any other Northwest rival means to his program.
Oregon has a new head man as well this year in former OC Chip Kelly. After a disasterous start in his first game against Boise State the Ducks have won five straight and are the only undefeated team in the conference. Oregon fans are thinking Rose Bowl and view the trip to Seattle with more trepidation than they are willing to admit.
The truth is this has all the makings of a trap game for Oregon. (According to a former player who is still close to the team as a booster) The players are used to beating Washington with little resistance. They think of the Huskies as an 0-12 team that has not been competitive in a game with the Oregon program for over five years. Not one single player on the Oregon roster has ever lost to Washington.
They say this is just another road trip against another conference rival. They simply expect to win when they play Washington. The fire that once burned surrounding the series has been replaced with the absolute certainty that the Huskies will lay down whenever they play the Ducks.
Oregon is coming off a bye week which can be both a blessing and a curse. Bye weeks are great for getting kids healthy, recruiting, and giving younger players an opportunity to show what they have learned during the first half of the season so they can compete for playing time in the second half. Bye weeks are not a great tool for sustaining momentum. Bye weeks can breed complacency. Obviously it can be a challenge to fire up the engine again after a two week rest.
Oregon also has some choices to make about who starts the game at QB. Jeremiah Masoli who looked dreadful early in the season and like a Heisman candidate before he got injured is coming back from a sprained MCL. Even if he plays this week he won't have the same mobilty he had before he went down.
Lets say they start Costa instead? He is a steady QB and had a decent game in his first start against UCLA two weeks ago. Truth is an explosion of Bruin mistakes sealed that game shortly after the start of the third quarter. The Oregon offense on the other hand wasn't its usual self. If UCLA hadn't imploded in a five minute span the Ducks could have been in trouble. You make your own luck and the Ducks certainly did that but they didn't resemble the team that took apart California when they played the Bruins.
Steve Sarkisian said that Tuesday's practice was the best one the Huskies have had all year. Washington is madder than a nest full of hornets coming off the ASU loss. The team is well aware of the domination the program has suffered at the hands of the Ducks over the past five years. Not a single Washington player on the current roster has ever beaten Oregon. This team realizes that they have to do something special on Saturday to get back on track in the bowl picture. Beating another top ranked opponent would be special.
This is a Washington team that has been tested under the fire of the toughest schedule in major college football this season. They are going to hit the field on Saturday with the home crowd behind them with a lot of emotion. This game is going to be hard fought all the way and like most Washington games this year will go down to the final tick of the clock.
Oregon is going to be playing a different Washington team this season. They are going to be playing a group of players and coaches who refuse to back down. They know what adversity is because they have faced it every single week this season. They are going to be ready for the Ducks on Saturday.
For more years than I can count Oregon fans complained about something called Husky arrogance. Maybe that Oregon arrogance that has replaced it over the past five years is the perfect storm that creates a trap situation on Saturday afternoon on the shores of Lake Washington.
(Editors Note: This story was published by mistake early this morning before it was finished. The completed article was scheduled to be published at 7:00 AM. on Wednesday. Changes and edits have been made to protect the innocent...enjoy!)
Some basic Duck facts for the uninformed.