“Hate week”, as the week leading up to the Oregon-Washington game is affectionately called, is almost over as the Ducks get ready to face the Huskies tomorrow. There are few rivalries in college football which rival the hatred between Duck and Husky fans. While Oregon State is our official rival, the real animosity and dislike is between Oregon and Washington.
This rivalry has a long and storied history filled with ups and downs of both programs, though regrettably more downs for the Ducks than the Huskies. Tomorrow’s game is just another notch in a rivalry that has had some historic games, and both teams are 5-1 heading into the matchup. The fact that Washington isn’t ranked shouldn’t take any shine off of the rivalry because the Huskies are a good team with a great, albeit young, defense. Shaq Thompson leads the nation in defensive touchdowns and should have eyes focused on him any time he’s on the field.
Cyler Miles, the Huskies start quarterback is young but already on his way to having a great career as he’s 85-of-129 with 896 yards and nine touchdowns. He, like his opponent quarterback Marcus Mariota, has yet to throw a interception this season. Both defenses will be looking to end those streaks with Shaq Thompson and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu facing the quarterbacks down.
To keep the Oregon playoff hopes alive, the Ducks have to win this game — and win it impressively. This win is important not only for the Oregon playoff hopes, but to increase the Ducks’ win streak to 11 games. Just to remind those who might have possibly missed the news this week, the last time Washington beat Oregon was 2003. There are fourth graders in the world who’ve never seen the Huskies beat the Ducks, and let’s hope they never do.
So, what made this rivalry so intense, and how long has it been going on?
The University of Oregon played the University of Washington for the first time on December 1, 1900, in a game that resulted in a 43-0 Oregon victory. The two teams have met 106 times since then, and Washington (sadly for now, but hopefully not for much longer) leads the series 58-42-5, in one of the longest-running rivalries in the NCAA. Unfathomable to today’s Duck fans, Washington has held four- to nine-year-long winning streaks for close to 70 years, with occasional Oregon wins thrown in to break them up. As any Duck or Washington fan knows, the Ducks have won the last 10 games to cap a “Decade of Dominance,” which is an unprecedented streak in the rivalry.
Throughout the history of the rivalry, several specific games and events played a major part in making the rivalry as intense as it is today.
One such event was the vote for the 1948 Pacific Coast Conference’s bid to the Rose Bowl. That year, Oregon and California tied for the crown, and it was put to a vote to determine who would receive the Rose Bowl invitation.
It was unanimously assumed all the California schools would vote together while all the Pacific northwest schools would vote together for Oregon. So it came as a surprise when Washington voted for California and convinced Montana to do the same. This sent California to the 1948 Rose Bowl and marked the beginning of the true hatred within the rivalry we now know.
The dissolution of the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) in 1958 also added fuel to the fire when Oregon (along with Washington State and Oregon State) was left outside of the newly formed Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). The PCC disbanded after a scandal erupted in which coaches and many major members of the conference were accused of misusing funds by giving athletes more money than NCAA regulations allowed.
The AAWU successfully negotiated with the Tournament of Roses to send its champion to the Rose Bowl beginning in 1961. Washington State joined the AAWU in 1962, and Oregon and Oregon State joined in 1964. In 1968, the AAWU changed its name to the Pacific-8 Conference, which became the predecessor of the Pacific 10 and Pac-12 Conferences.
Adding further insult to injury, in the 1962 game, Washington fans rushed the field and tackled Oregon wideout Larry Hill as he was attempting to catch what would have been the game-winning play, ending the game in a tie. After the game, Oregon Head Coach Len Casanova said, “I don’t know if it made any difference, but you can’t run a very good pattern with 1,800 kids on the field.”
In 1973, an Oregon team widely considered less talented than its opponents beat Washington 58-0 in Eugene. Mad and vowing to score at least 59 points on the Ducks, Washington coach Jim Owens left his starters in until the fourth quarter of the 1974 game.
Though the Huskies won that game 66-0, they lost their starting quarterback to a broken ankle and their star running back to a separated shoulder.
The Pick: The play that changed the course of both teams’ trajectories for the past 19 years. It’s one of Oregon fans’ favorite ways to irritate Washington fans and even now, almost two decades later, you’ll find t-shirts and posters all over Eugene referencing the play. Oregon’s Kenny Wheaton intercepted Washington’s Damon Huard and returned the ball 98 yards for a touchdown to upset then-No. 9 Huskies. The Ducks went on to play in the Rose Bowl that year — and “The Pick” became the program’s Renaissance moment.
The behavior of the teams and fan bases in the next few years emphasized the true strength of the rivalry.
In 2002, the Huskies beat the Ducks 42-14 and proceeded to return to the field after the game to dance on the “O” at the 50-yard line for 30 minutes. The following year, in Seattle, the Huskies won 42-10, then gathered together to “woof” at the Ducks as they left the field. Karma was about to strike back ….
That was the last time the Huskies beat the Ducks. Apparently Oregon didn’t take too well to the excessive celebration on our “O” and the woofing in Seattle.
In 2011, the Huskies were hoping to give the old Husky Stadium a memorable send-off before its much-needed face lift, but instead closed out the stadium with a 34-17 loss — to Oregon.
The Huskies debuted a new coach over the off-season with the hiring of Chris Petersen from Boise State, who, it appears, has a shared history with Oregon coach, Mark Helfrich. Their careers have crossed paths twice before; they first met in 1997 when Helfrich was a graduate assistant at Oregon and Petersen was a receivers’ coach. Their paths crossed again in 2000 at Boise State.
In a Pac-12 football coaches conference call soon after his hire, Petersen joked about Helfrich, “We used to be friends. No, I’m just kidding … I think Mark’s a great guy.”
Even though both fan bases might not always want to be friends, it appears our head coaches will be.
Both teams now have coaches who know how to win and we can only assume this rivalry will grow more competitive as Washington struggles to become a stronger, more rivalry-worthy program. Here’s hoping for some great games in the future, with the Ducks coming out on top, of course!
I, for one, can’t wait for tomorrow! Go Ducks!
Top photo by Kevin Cline