Ten years is a long time. A gloriously long time. On Saturday afternoon, the Oregon football team capped a decade of dominance against their most hated rival, the Washington Huskies. The Ducks controlled the game and won convincingly, 45-24.
While watching the game yesterday afternoon, it was hard not to think about “The Pick.” Arguably the most iconic moment in Oregon football history, Kenny Wheaton’s pick-six changed destiny. At least that’s what it feels like. Since that game in 1994, Oregon is 15-4 against the Huskies and has spent the last 19 years building a program that rivals the best in the nation. And while some may argue that Oregon’s National Championship game appearance in 2011 or back-to-back Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl wins mark just how far the program has come, many veteran fans feel that nothing beats humiliating Washington ten straight times.
“A decade of dominance” is more than just a catchy phrase. Ten straight wins by at least 17 points. 10! The fact that over the past 10 years, the Huskies haven’t come within 17 points of Oregon is truly remarkable. If that’s not dominance, then I’m not sure what is. And while “The Pick” is hard to top, Saturday was undoubtedly a monumental moment in Oregon’s history.
The game started a bit unpleasantly for the Ducks, as Keanon Lowe dropped a wide open touchdown ball on Oregon’s first drive, which led to a punt. The defense responded, however, with a big 3rd-and-2 stop. The offense took advantage and marched down the field, ultimately punching it in for six. That drive, while ending in a touchdown, didn’t really set the tempo Oregon prefers due to three different reviews, the last of which came on fourth-and-goal and will surely draw the ire of Washington fans.
In the 2nd quarter, after tying the game at seven with a nice drive, Washington was marching down the field with a chance to take the lead when Troy Hill forced a Bishop Sankey fumble. That was the turning point in the game, as Oregon, like they normally do, responded without mercy and took control. Mariota found his new favorite target, Bralon Addison, on the first and final plays of the drive. It was another touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The defense buckled down in the middle of the quarter, and the Ducks had another methodical touchdown drive, capped by a 15-yard Byron Marshall run. After a big stop, Oregon got the ball back with a chance to put the game out of reach and go up 28-7 going into halftime, but it wasn’t meant to be. A couple of Mariota-to-Addison overthrows kept the game within reach and the Ducks went into the half up 21-7.
Out of the half, Washington responded in very Oregon-esque fashion. On 4th-and-1, Bishop Sankey busted a 60-yard touchdown run after a missed Duck tackle. The Huskies rushed to the line and never considered punting, something Oregon fans have seen a lot of over the past five years. In a strong, confident statement, the Ducks answered with a 65-yard Mariota touchdown pass to Josh Huff. On the ensuing Husky drive, an Avery Patterson interception was overturned, but Washington couldn’t capitalize. Behind relentless penetration courtesy of Wade Keliikipi (who was great all night), Oregon held the Huskies to a field goal.
After the Ducks added a field goal of their own, Washington had a big-boy touchdown drive to close out the quarter and keep the game close at 31-24. Yet again, Oregon answered like great teams do, with a touchdown drive thanks to a couple of great runs by Mariota.
Finally, Oregon made a defensive stop and did what they do: crush their opponent when the opportunity presents itself. Addison added his second touchdown of the game and Oregon took a 45-24 lead, which ended up as the final score.
This game was big for Oregon. They played a very good Washington team who tested them and even took them into the 4th quarter for the first time this year. Oregon responded time after time, on both sides of the ball, and ultimately took care of business. Mariota’s bid for a Heisman got a nice boost behind another great performance; he ended up going 24 – 31 with 366 passing yards and 3 touchdowns, while adding 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Oregon players and coaches will say that this was just another game. They’ll say that Washington was just another faceless opponent. They’ll say that the whole “decade of dominance” sentiment isn’t something that concerned them.
As we all know, though, this was no ordinary game and Washington is not a faceless opponent. And the “decade of dominance” isn’t a sentiment; it’s a fact.
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