It’s Oregon week. There was a time less than 20 years ago where this wouldn’t even cause Husky fans to raise an eyebrow. Now, our games against Nike U are matched in significance ONLY by the Apple Cup.
It’s a far cry from the Don James era rivalry when it literally was no rivalry. The argument can be made now that it’s still not a rivalry, and it would be an easy point to argue. Oregon has simply dominated the Dawgs over the past decade in a way never seen before on Montlake. However, that’s a story for a different time, as is my prediction for the weekend (I think we win, by the way. We had Stanford dead to rights on the road; we can beat Oregon. If we don’t get them this year, I don’t know when we will).
As the “senior” writer for The Husky Haul, my wonderful editors asked me to wax nostalgic about my most memorable and least memorable UW vs. UO moments. I thought it would be a difficult task because there has been so much history between the two schools. As I started to think about it, though, it became a really easy choice for both instances.
My most memorable moment against the Oregon Ducks came during the 2003 season – coincidentally (or not) the last time the Huskies beat the Ducks. That was the closest thing to a full-fledged frat party at Husky Stadium that I have ever seen.
The game started miserably for UW. For the second straight year, the Huskies spotted Oregon a double-digit lead. I’ll never forget the feeling in the student section – we wanted Cody Pickett out of the game. He was playing like garbage, despite the fact that he lead a 17-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to get the Dawgs within three, 10-7, at the half. We were clamoring for Casey Paus, the stud five-star recruit who was Pickett’s heir apparent.
Our wish was granted in the third quarter; Pickett was concussed and couldn’t go. From the first play of the third quarter, the route was on. Casey Paus threw seven passes total in the second half for 117 yards. Two went for touchdowns. Clearly, we the students knew our stuff when it came to quarterbacks! Shelton Sampson had all of six carries. Six carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Kenny James added 104 yards of his own.
Husky Stadium was literally rocking and rolling. The building was shaking it was so loud – we reveled in the absolute destruction of our sworn enemy. Little did we know that – at least to date – we would never see something like that again.
While that 2003 game represents the highest of highs, there is one game – actually one moment that represents the lowest of lows. I thought about the 2000 loss to Joey Harrington’s Ducks that turned out to be UW’s only loss during the Rose Bowl season and cost us a chance to play for a national title, but it doesn’t match up to the 1994 game in Eugene. This game changed the fortunes of two programs with one play.
Despite a roster laden with NFL talent (Napoleon Kaufman, Lawyer Milloy, Damon Huard, Mark Bruener, Erik Bjornson), UW couldn’t get out of their own way against the Ducks for most of the 1994 matchup. Damon Huard was uncharacteristically inefficient and Oregon took a 24-20 lead late into the fourth quarter.
Finally, it seemed that Huard and his offense got it together. With time winding down, Huard and Kaufman lead UW down the field to the Oregon three-yard line. Why UW decided to throw the football with Napoleon Kaufman lining up in the backfield, I’ll never know. The rest is history. Huard throws a lazy pass toward Dave Janoski and Kenny freakin’ Wheaton picks it off and goes 97 yards to the house and puts the game away.
I remember sitting in my living room with my best friend watching the game and thinking, “This isn’t good. This gives them hope.” Turns out I was right. I wasn’t the only one watching that game – Uncle Phil apparently had his interest in Oregon Football reignited after that game and well, here we are 20 years later.
So there they are. My best and worst memories from the UW vs. Oregon rivalry. What are yours? Tweet them to @psomerstein or @HuskyHaul.
Bow down and go Dawgs.