We continue our look at the top storylines related to Husky football in 2015 with a look at the most ghastly of blights in the Washington record book: the streak.
There are other streaks, to be sure. The streak against Arizona State. The streak of years without an all-Pac 12 offensive lineman. The streak of hit singles by Taylor Swift. The streak of bad Vin Diesel movies (all of which are too delicious to miss). Those are all mind-bending streaks that make the typical Husky fan cringe at the merest thought.
But, there is just one streak. You know of what I speak.
The last time that Oregon lost a football game to Washington (a 32-point shellacking, incidentally), Johnny Depp was People magazine's sexiest man alive following his hit movie The Pirates of the Caribbean, the US had just launched its crusade into Iraq (and subsequently captured Saddam Hussein), California Governor Gray Davis was being recalled thus clearing the way for Arnold Schwarznegger to become governor, The DaVinci Code was sparking protests while carrying the NY Times Best Seller list, and the invention of sliced bread was changing the world.
Ok, maybe not so much with the sliced bread. But you catch my drift. It was a long time ago.
Optimism blanketed Husky Nation when the Ducks came into Seattle on October 17. The Ducks had shown very little moxie in the early part of their schedule, having suffered losses at the hands of Michigan State, Utah, and Washington State (the Cougars?). Up to that point, the Ducks had shown a great deal of offensive inconsistency and possessed a defense that was less pit bull and more shih-tzu. Not that shih-tzus are bad. They are, in fact, sweet little pups.
The Huskies actually went into the game favored in Vegas. ESPN insiders were making UW their chic pick of the weekend. All the game simulators were saying the same thing: slight advantage to the Dawgs. Duck fans everywhere were bracing for the worst case scenario given the fact that the Huskies, despite their youth on offense, presented the best defense that the sluggish Duck offense would face all season. The table was set. The dinner was in the oven. All that was left to do was eat.
Except that somebody forgot to tell Vernon Adams he wasn't invited.
The diminutive QB transfer from Eastern Washington had, to that point, accomplished very little for the Ducks. After suffering a broken finger in Oregon's loss to Michigan State, the Ducks had lost three of the five games. Duck fans were distressed and unsure of what, exactly, VA would bring to the table.
Husky fans knew, which is exactly why nobody wanted to see him invited to our supper.
A year previous, the man known has VA had graced the turf of Husky Stadium when he and his Eastern Washington teammates uncorked a performance for the ages. Adams completed bomb after bomb against a young and terrorized Husky secondary on his way to racking up 475 yards in passing yardage and a record-setting seven (yes, seven!) touchdown passes against the Huskies. Though the Huskies would end up victorious (thanks, ironically, to the heroics of UW QB Cyler Miles), there was little doubt who was the best player on the field that day. A Husky Killer had been born.
In an offseason of tumult for the young man, Adams endured what may have been the most poorly handled (and perhaps humiliating) graduate transfer in the history of the NCAA. Recruited under auspicious circumstances, banned from the facilities in Cheney, and denied initial admission to Oregon due to a failed math class, Vernon Adams became a football player without a team. He was labeled a mercenary and became a lightning rod in the debate surrounding the merits of the graduate transfer rule.
Nevertheless, his transfer to Oregon struck fear in the hearts of grown men all across the NCAA...or at least in Montlake. Some pundits were predicting Heisman. Others were talking about another run to the national championship. Duck fans everywhere internalized the belief that Oregon could withstand the graduation of Marcus Mariota and not miss a beat. Husky fans prepared to face the kryptonite to Chris Peteresen's Superman, all the while wondering how in the world Adams was wearing anything but a purple and gold uniform.
The injury that Adams suffered in their second game was a body blow to be sure. The Ducks sputtered under the leadership of backup quarterback Jeff Lockie as other weaknesses on the roster were exposed. The struggles of the Oregon secondary, their linebackers, their offensive line, and their inside receivers hinted to fans that the bloom had indeed fallen from the rose. Husky fans were struck with a sense of confidence that the Ducks were not only mortal, but beatable.
The fact that Adams and his favorite receiver target, Darren Carrington, were set to return to the field against the Huskies in Husky Stadium did little to dissuade that confidence. While few Husky fans were foolish enough to boast that the Dawgs were going to have little problem moving the ball against Oregon, most did believe that the robust Husky D could keep the Oregon offense under wraps.
For the most part, they did.
Adams definitely showed less at the helm of the Ducks than he had the year before when he played with Eastern Washington. He was hesitant on his reads, his feet were happy, and his accuracy was far less spectacular than it had been the previous season. He was clearly bothered by a Husky front that was regularly beating the Oregon offensive line and breaking down the QB's pocket. In fact, if you just looked at his stat line for the entire game - 14/25 for 272 yards with 2 TDs - you wouldn't simply jump to the assumption that the QB played winning football.
The thing that deceives about those numbers was the Adams magic on third down. Specifically, third down in the first half. During that frame, Adams' stat line read 5/6 for 182 yards and a TD. It was remarkable. Those third down conversions were third and 7, third and 10 (for a TD), third and 10, third and 12, and third and 13 - every single one of them converted to a first down. 36% of his completions, 50% of his TDs and a remarkable 67% of his yards were booked on third and long in the first half. In fact, in every other down - including third down in the 2nd half - Adams was just 9 of 21 for 90 yards and a TD in the game.
In many ways, the Washington game was a microcosm for the kind of feast-or-famine season that Adams would go on to have. If he wasn't hitting one of those exceptional Oregon receivers (normally Carrington) on a bomb, he wasn't doing much of anything else at all. It was certainly true on that fateful day in Seattle.
Just a Dawg killer doing his thing.