As much as its fans would love the day to arrive
where Oregon's Chip Kelly and Washington's Steve Sarkisian are
catapulting barbs across the Columbia River and adding to the
vitriol already provided by fans, it's not going to happen anytime
Politically correct may be boring, but it's the road Kelly and
Sarkisian are traveling when it comes to the Ducks and Huskies.
Those looking for public trash talking ahead of Saturday night's
reunion between No. 6 Oregon and Washington in the final game at
Husky Stadium before a $250 million renovation had better look
"The fans can get after it and do all those other things, but
any coach in the country that looks at one game as more important
each week than any other game, than you're not going to last very
long," Kelly said. "We won a lot of football games since I've
been here because every game we play is the biggest game that we
play. If you don't face it that way, you're going to get beat.
That's been our mentality. But it's not to diminish a rivalry."
Of course, for it to be a true rivalry it can't be one-sided.
And that's exactly what the matchups between Oregon and Washington
have been for most of the last decade -- one giant Duck romp.
Oregon has won seven straight over its northern neighbors, all
by 20 points or more. It's the longest win streak by either school
in the history of a rivalry that dates to 1900.
But the Ducks' longest run of success in more than 100 years of
meetings dates beyond a 31-6 win in 2004 that started the current
win streak. Dominant would describe Oregon's control of the Huskies
ever since Kenny Wheaton's interception return for a touchdown that
clinched a 31-20 victory in 1994 and helped propel the Ducks to the
Including that famous victory and Wheaton's play that remains on
a constant loop on the video board at Autzen Stadium before every
home game, the Ducks are 12-4 against Washington and throttling the
Huskies by an average of nearly 18 points.
If the Ducks are going to extend that win streak and win a
fourth straight in Seattle, they'll do it by overcoming a mountain
of nostalgia and by not looking ahead to next week's showdown at
No. 4 Stanford.
Along with the Saturday night game serving as a finale of sorts
at Husky Stadium before a needed update to modernize the crumbling
venue, Washington will be honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1991
Huskies team that were co-national champions with Miami.
Former coach Don James will take part in the festivities and
Washington is expecting its largest home crowd of the season.
"We talked about it, just because of the atmosphere we're going
to go into, and our guys are excited about it," Kelly said. "We
love going into venues like Husky Stadium or some of the other
great places in this league to play. And the fact that this is the
last game, we know that the Washington fans are going to be jacked
up, fired up and ready to go, and we know we're going to have to be
prepared for it because it's going to be loud."
There remains a question about who the Ducks will start at
quarterback. Darron Thomas was pulled at halftime of last week's
43-28 win over Washington State and replaced by Bryan Bennett.
Leading just 15-10 at halftime, Bennett sparked the Ducks to 21
third-quarter points as Oregon pulled away.
Late in the week, Kelly told a Seattle radio station that Thomas
would start against the Huskies. Thomas said he didn't feel as
though he needed to win back his job and didn't believe there was a
"Very surprised, but it's the media. ... I go out and work hard
every day and I'm confident with what I do," Thomas said.
The optimism that Washington can finally break its losing streak
to the Ducks comes from the backfield combo of running back Chris
Polk and quarterback Keith Price. Last week versus Arizona, Polk
became the first player in Washington history to have at least 100
yards rushing and receiving and scored five combined touchdowns.
Price made his first college start last year at Oregon when the
Ducks were No. 1 in the country. Sarkisian was impressed that the
moment didn't seem overwhelming to his young quarterback. Entering
this week, Price has already thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and 23
"Just adjusting the game speed and really paying attention to
the looks that you are getting during the game was the biggest
thing and not just playing the game blind," Price said of his
first start. "That's the biggest thing I took away from the
While Washington may be able to score on the Ducks, the Huskies' defense will need to be better than in its last matchup against a top 10 team two weeks ago when Stanford ran for 446 yards. Oregon has averaged 315 yards rushing against the Huskies in the last five
"It's fun. We like playing these guys," Washington linebacker Cort Dennison said. "It's a fun environment. It's fun on the field. There are some heated discussions on the field but that's what makes college football fun."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)