The word “domination” is the perfect word when describing the rivalry between Oregon and Washington. For the past 11 years, the Ducks have absolutely dominated the Huskies by the average score of 44-18.
Believe it or not, this particular rivalry used to be the other way around in the 70’s and 80’s and even in the beginning part of the 90’s. The Ducks considered the Dawgs not as a big brother, but that annoying uncle that messes with you and then make you say mercy.
From 1970-93, Oregon had only defeated Washington a total of five times and on those rare occasions when the Ducks did come out on top, the reaction consisted of shock and absolute joy.
But in 1994, everything changed.
In Eugene, it’s called “The Pick.” Cornerback Kenny Wheaton returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown in the waning moments to solidify a 34-20 win. Ever since, the tables have turned with Oregon being the best team in the Northwest.
Now it’s Husky Week in Eugene, but for the first time in a dozen years, the Huskies feel like they could very well end the streak and finally beat the Ducks.
The Huskies hired Chris Peterson, whether they want to admit it or not, to win the Oregon game. Peterson had some success over the Ducks when he was at Boise State and he knows the inner workings of the Oregon program by being an assistant coach in Eugene from 1995-2001.
While Chip Kelly was leading the Ducks with unprecedented success, the one team that had their number were the Broncos. Oregon fell to Boise State inside Autzen Stadium 37-32 in 2008 in Mike Bellotti’s final season as head coach and then 19-8 in 2009 that was Kelly’s head coaching debut. That game ended with tailback LeGarrette Blount sucker punching Boise State’s Byron Hout.
The 2015 Oregon team is currently in disarray with a bad quarterback situation and an even worse defense, while the Huskies are coming off a 17-12 upset over USC. Considering the chaos that is hovering over the Trojan program, perhaps that win wasn’t such an upset after all.
No matter the mess that was happening on the other sideline, the win left the Huskies feeling great about themselves and it’s with good reason.
Not only was it a win, but it was a win where their defense had to step up and stop USC from scoring a touchdown late in the game. The Huskies had to make a play on defense in a big spot and they did. Washington held USC’s Cody Kessler to just 156 yards on 19-of-26 passing with two interceptions. They also dumped Kessler on his back five times for sacks.
And this is a Washington defense that lost three starters to the NFL draft last season.
Evidently that defense was full of individuals and the 2015 unit is playing like a team under second-year defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Heading into the Oregon game, the Husky defense is ranked No. 1 in the conference by giving up just 326 yards per game.
Washington hangs its hat on the run defense and it will be going up against the Pac-12’s best rushing attack. The Ducks are averaging nearly 320 yards on the ground, while the Dawgs are allowing just 122 yards.
Oregon doesn’t have much of a passing attack at the moment without Vernon Adams taking the snaps. The Ducks are going with a two quarterback system with Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie sharing time. But as the old saying goes, when you have play two quarterbacks, it means you don’t have any quarterbacks.
Washington, however, does have a quarterback in true freshman Jake Browning. He averages just 223 yards through the air, has only five touchdowns to five interceptions. But he seems to be making better decisions on the fly and Browning will be facing the worst pass defense in the Pac-12. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder was also offered by Oregon and if he should pick the Duck secondary apart, it’ll leave Oregon wondering, “What if?”
Everything seems to point to the Huskies’ way in this game. The Ducks will have a difficult time finding the end zone with the passing game and the running attack with have a rough time getting going with the defense not having to respect the passing game.
The Oregon quarterbacks had trouble moving the ball against an average Cougar defense at home. Now they have to figure out a way to score against the best defense in the conference in their house. And their house will be rocking with a 7:30 pm kick. It’ll give the crowd plenty of time to have their share of “spirits” to become extra rowdy to disrupt the Duck offense and with a win, they can party like it’s 1993.