It's not just that the Huskies haven't beaten Oregon since 2003. They haven't come close, really.
EUGENE, Ore. — The little girl, dressed in Oregon colors, held up a sign and scowled.
It read: “I wasn’t born the last time UW beat Oregon.”
Yes, it has gotten that bad. Daddy’s little girl is now the Dawgs’ little devil.
The Ducks don’t just refer to their youth by age anymore. They introduce them according to how many Husky beatdowns they’ve experienced.
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All children age 8 and under born with a silver swoosh in their mouths don’t remember when this was a competitive rivalry, let alone that the Huskies used to dominate the matchup. Every year, you keep waiting for the momentum to shift, and every year, Oregon grinds a foot into Washington’s throat.
It’s not just that the Huskies haven’t beaten Oregon since 2003. They haven’t come close, really. All the losses have been by at least 17 points. The No. 2 Ducks tore apart the Huskies for a ninth consecutive time Saturday night with a 52-21 victory at Autzen Stadium.
Washington (3-2) entered the game with a No. 23 ranking and coming off a quality win over Stanford, but it didn’t matter. The Ducks sent the Huskies back to earth with their trademark dizzying combination of speed, explosive plays and offensive ingenuity. For certain, they thumped the Huskies because they’re the superior team. But on their way to this blowout win, the Ducks accepted a few gifts from their mistake-riddled rival.
You’ve come to accept, however begrudgingly, that Oregon’s up-tempo spread offense is the Pac-12’s deadliest weapon. To overcome it, opponents must play clean, disciplined football. That’s where the Huskies went wrong in this game. And five turnovers and dozens of mental mistakes later, it resulted in humiliation.
“We really felt like we could come in and play with them,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I’m frustrated. I don’t think the score is indicative of where their team is compared to ours.”
It’s hard to remember that the night began with promise. Washington freshman safety Shaq Thompson intercepted a Marcus Mariota pass, off a tip from cornerback Desmond Trufant, to end Oregon’s first drive. The Huskies couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, but their defense forced Oregon to punt on the Ducks’ second possession. Two drives, two stops for Justin Wilcox’s new defense. The Huskies were feeling good. And then everything fell apart.
Marvin Hall muffed a punt after that second defensive stop, which gave Oregon the ball at the 20-yard line. Two plays later, the fleet tailback De’Anthony Thomas was dashing into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown.
Throughout the first half, as Oregon took a commanding 35-7 lead, the Huskies made disastrous errors that can’t happen against any good team, but especially against one this potent. Among the other miscues that haunted Washington early: Dropped passes by Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the first half. Inaccurate throws by quarterback Keith Price. A Price interception that Oregon safety Avery Patterson returned for a touchdown. A Price fumble that led to another Oregon touchdown.
It was Willingham-in-2008 bad. It was ugly. It was, sadly, something even worse than that.
Sarkisian has accomplished plenty in three-plus seasons as coach. He has made the Huskies competitive and earned the respect of just about every opponent — except for Oregon. The Ducks are the last mountain to climb, and no matter how hard the Huskies train, they never manage to get more than halfway up before conceding defeat.
In Sark’s first three seasons, at least the Huskies could claim that they were in the game at halftime before succumbing to Oregon’s famous closing kick. This time, however, they were down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
“We didn’t make it hard on them,” Trufant said. “We made it easy for them.”
This is a rivalry gone bad. The Ducks keep pounding the Huskies, and their fans keep demanding that UW fans appreciate the powerhouse they’ve become. But the Husky faithful will only acknowledge them with a sigh, a head nod and a retort that college football history is longer than their kids’ memories. Oregon seems determined to beat the respect out of Washington. The Huskies, still squeezing their tradition tightly, won’t budge, though.
It’s the kind of ridiculousness that makes the buildup to these games so fun. But for the past nine meetings, the actual games have been lopsided and predictable. The Ducks could spot the Huskies 17 points and still turn these contests into laughers.
Until the Huskies hold up their end again, this is a rivalry in barbs only. And the Huskies’ wisecracks are getting rather stale.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.