Recent Washington-Oregon games have been close at halftime. But the Ducks have dominated in the second halves of the games, and have beaten the Huskies in eight straight games.
EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon coach Chip Kelly shook off the question this week the way his offensive players often do opposing tacklers.
The idea that the Ducks somehow crank it up even more in the second half to crush the dreams of foes who go into halftime thinking they have a chance?
Nonsense, said Kelly.
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“A lot is made that we execute better as the game moves along,” Kelly said. “But we are not taking our game plan and ripping it up at halftime. You look at the plays we run in the first half and the plays we run in the second half, and a lot of them look identical.”
Washington safety Sean Parker isn’t so sure.
The Huskies travel to Eugene to play the Ducks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the 105th meeting of the bitter rivals.
It will be the third for Parker, a junior, who said he sees the same thing many observers do about the Ducks’ seeming ability to turn it on in the second half.
“They don’t really show too much in the first half, but the second half they come out and just try to wear their opponent down,” he said. “I feel like they go quicker and they just try to declare what they are going to do and they just run at you and they give you all they’ve got in the second half.
” … So we’ve got to be disciplined and not let that happen.”
That’s something UW hasn’t been able to do in recent years against Oregon.
In fact, if there’s a poster child for a team that has often hung around the Ducks for a half only to be undone in the second, it’s the Huskies.
Oregon has won eight in a row. The last UW win was 42-10 in Seattle in 2003.
The past five have come since Kelly arrived at Oregon as the offensive coordinator in 2007 (he became head coach in 2009) and brought his up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense.
• In 2007, UW trailed 24-17 at halftime before a 24-3 Oregon fourth quarter resulted in a 55-34 Oregon win.
• In 2008, UW trailed 14-10 at halftime before losing 44-10.
• In 2009, UW trailed 15-6 at the half before losing 43-19.
• In 2010 the Huskies trailed 18-6 at the half in an eventual 53-16 loss.
• And last year in Seattle, in the last game at Husky Stadium before renovation work began, Oregon led 17-10 at halftime before pulling away for a 34-17 win.
In the three games since Steve Sarkisian and Kelly became head coaches in 2009, UW has been outscored 50-22 in the first half and 80-30 in the second.
“The games have been there, and then they have been pulled away,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian said one reason is the way Oregon’s offenses tax the depth of defenses.
But he said he thinks UW might be better prepared this season. The Huskies used multiple personnel groupings in last week’s 17-13 upset of Stanford.
“I would like to think that through our recruiting we have some pretty good depth,” Sarkisian said.
Utilizing that depth, though, will require constant and creative shuffling of defensive players during the game by UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to keep players fresh.
Sarkisian said he thinks Oregon adjusts well during the game.
“They do a nice job of recognizing the defenses that they are getting faced with, because you can only have so many going into the game because you have to get lined up,” he said. “And then they start to call things that really fit to the defenses that they are seeing.”
And what Oregon does seems to work especially well in Eugene — Oregon has scored at least 35 points in every Pac-12 game it has played since Kelly became head coach.
That means a UW offense that hasn’t scored more than 21 this year against an FBS foe will have to play its best game to keep up. An offensive line featuring four first-year starters will have to pass-block better to allow time for Keith Price to throw, and continue to also forge a running game.
Washington enters the game as a 25-point underdog. But it also comes in with confidence after the win over Stanford, which made UW 3-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12. Sarkisian said he wasn’t worried about a letdown, citing the serious nature of these players. The eight-game losing streak to the Ducks no doubt also will keep their attention.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta