We gather here today to bid fond farewell to our old friend. It is with great sadness and regret that such an unfortunate demise has come to pass. There was so much left to live for... and so much left unaccomplished.
Yet, like the receding of the tide and the passing of the storm, life finds a way to return to its natural state of equilibrium. It is not for us to understand “why.” All that is asked of us is that we adapt to the rhythm of life.
As we venture off on to the next great unknown, let us not reflect sadly upon all that we did not achieve. Rather, let us rejoice over the greatness of what was, no matter how fleeting the experience may have been.
The Oregon Ducks certainly have reason to reflect and to celebrate. For 12 straight years, the Ducks have owned the Washington Huskies. And when I say “own,” I really mean kick-them-in-the-nuts, gouge-their-eyes-out-with-an-ice-cream-scooper, and burn-their-flesh-with-a-cattle-brand-in-the-likeness-of-Donald-Duck kind of domination.
For the last 10 years of that stretch of ascendancy, I’ve been awaiting the opportunity to write this very article.
Twelve straight is certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially when you are talking about rivals who exist in the same conference. That the Ducks could manage such commanding margins of victory in an era of scholarship limits and national recruiting databases makes it even more remarkable. The closest UW ever got to winning one of those games before last year’s 26-20 close call in Seattle was a 17-point loss in 2011. That game was the last to be played in the old Husky Stadium and, in truth, the Huskies were never really in that ballgame. In all, the Huskies managed a total of 242 points in twelve games while surrendering 498 to Oregon.
As great as the cumulative statistics are, it becomes even more painful when you consider the individual heartbreaking losses.
It all started the day before Halloween in 2004. In that game, the Huskies were trailing 17-6 in the third quarter, but driving. Things were setting up for a Husky comeback until Casey Paus threw an interception to Demetrius Spates (who?) on the Oregon 30-yard line. From that point forward, the Huskies would have possessions of -4 yards, 0 yards, -6 yards (and a pick six), 8 yards, 0 yards, and -4 yards (and a fumble). That was the day the streak began, and damn it all if everyone who witnessed it in Eugene didn’t know that the guard had changed in Pacific Northwest.
A couple of years later, in 2006, things really bottomed out. The Huskies were cratering following an injury to QB Isaiah Stanback. Oregon got off to a slow start in that one, toyed around with the Huskies and then, as they were prone to do for many more years, they poured it on with a couple of long, back-breaking plays to seal the deal 34-14.
Chip Kelly’s first year as offensive coordinator at Oregon was 2007. He brought with him a reinvented offensive style that featured a fast tempo, a lot of deception, and a tendency to take advantage of the opposing team’s confusion. Jake Locker did his best to keep the Huskies in this one, but he couldn’t compensate for 465 yards of total rushing (221 yards from Washington state native Jonathan Stewart) as the Ducks crushed UW 55-34.
The most disappointing loss — at least before last year’s effort in which Vernon Adams turned Husky Stadium into a TV-MA reality series called “VA Gone Wild” — was the ESPN College GameDay appearance that pitted a ranked UW team (#16) against #2 Oregon. Husky fans were hyped up on Red Bull, Purple Kool-Aid and vodka, and expected “the streak” to come to a halt in front of a national audience. ESPN did their best to make Red Square look great, but they couldn’t dress up the pig that was the football game. Marcus Mariota was unstoppable on the day with his legs, and kept finding wide open receivers all over the field for one of his best games as a collegian.
I could go on, but you get the point. It was long. It was ugly. It was painful.
And now it is over.
It is not surprising that some Husky fans might still be reeling from the damage absorbed during the 12 years of abuse. After all, 4,723 days between victories is a long stretch by any measure. Babies were born, companies came and went, wars began and ended, and true Dawgs left this earth. A whole generation of young people were raised not realizing that there was ever a time when the Huskies actually were capable of competing with Oregon, much less beating them.
But let’s take stock of what Oregon actually accomplished during “the Streak.” It is no surprise that the streak tracked to the most successful surge in the history of Oregon football. A massive influx of donations and a marketing partnership with Nike allowed Oregon to refurbish facilities, hire quality coaches, and market the program. Along the way, the Ducks started a streak of national relevance and continuous ranking in the top 25 of all the polls. They played in two national championship games, won some major recruiting battles, and mounted a couple of Heisman campaigns. With Mariota, they even managed to snag one.
Against UW, they took 12 games off an all-time record that started out 51-29-4 and turned it into 51-41-4. So, that’s something. UW’s all time winning percentage fell from 61% to 55%. Not bad for Oregon.
But let’s look at what didn’t happen.
- Oregon didn’t overtake UW in the all-time series record. Had any team in the Pac-12 other than WSU — and this includes Cal, by the way — ripped off 12 straight against UW, they’d own the all-time head-to-head record versus UW.
- Oregon didn’t take the record for largest margin of victory. This one seems inconceivable, but its true. The largest margin of victory by UO during the streak was 37 points in the game that Keith Price sat in for an injured Jake Locker as a freshman. UW’s previous all-time best margins of victory are 66 points (1974), 57 points (1951), 54 points (1977), and 49 points (1952). UW’s 49-point victory last weekend was a full two scores better than any beating Oregon ever applied to Washington during the streak. I will point out, in fairness, that Oregon did beat UW 58-0 in 1973 (which UW answered 364 days later).
- Oregon didn't hang 70 points on UW. In fact, they never hung even 60 on UW. Even when Tyrone Willingham was the coach. Shameful.
- Oregon didn’t win a national championship. Duh.
- Incredibly, Oregon didn’t dominate the Pac-12. In fact, Oregon won the conference championship just four times during that stretch. It seems like it should have been more.
- Oregon didn’t beat more than three top-10 ranked out-of-conference opponents. Ironically, two of those happened while Mark Helfrich — the man everybody wants to fire — was the head coach. Chip Kelly only managed to do it one time, and that was against a very liberally ranked #5 Kansas State team in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. For the first eight years of the streak, the mighty Ducks couldn’t pull the feat off even a single time.
I’ll tell you one thing Oregon did do to Washington. In 2009, just one year after the 0-fer season, the Ducks ultimately knocked what would become a 5-win Husky team out of a bowl game. It would appear that UW has now returned that favor. The only difference is that in 2009, UW was a team starting a climb. This Oregon squad seems like a team falling over a guardrail and straight down into a ditch.
The Ducks’ reign of power over the Pac-12 has most certainly run its course. Oregon fans can certainly take solace in the memories of glorious Pac-12 wins, glitzy uniforms, and video game scoreboards. Now they must deal with the reality of opportunity squandered. It is unlikely that Oregon will soon again see the likes of St. Marcus, J-Stew, DAT or LaMichael running up and down the field scoring points at will.
It is also unlikely that Duck fans will soon see a stretch of dominance over any single Pac-12 team like they have experienced over Washington. It was an accomplishment to be sure. But like a fart in a wind storm, it turned into nothing of consequence.
The Huskies eviscerated the Ducks last weekend in what can only be described as the most humiliating defeat Oregon has ever suffered. Unlike the Utah game from a year ago, there were no weird special teams plays or funky turnovers. There were no controversial calls. There were no abysmal, game-changing weather conditions. It was simply the most points that the home crowd has ever seen put up on their Ducks. And it was broadcast on national television.
The Ducks and their fans are going to have to live with that. It is the great ‘but’ that will forever be used as a retort to anybody who feels compelled to brag about the streak.
So now we move on to whatever streaks and whatever rivalries are born from this day forward. The future remains a great unknown for two programs seemingly heading in opposite directions. Bowl games, playoff runs, and Heisman campaigns seem like the future for one and a memory for the other.
But, who really knows? All I can tell you is that the streak is dead. May it rest in peace.