The Huskies marched into Eugene and laid 70 points on Oregon, the most ever in the history of Autzen Stadium, and snapped a 12-game losing streak to the rival Ducks. The two meet again Saturday afternoon in Eugene.
Has there ever been a more satisfying eight-day stretch in the history of Washington football?
Husky Stadium has perhaps never been louder than it was when the Huskies hosted Stanford for a Friday-night showdown of top-10 teams on Sept. 30, 2016. Final score: No. 10 Huskies 44, No. 7 Stanford 6. What a night, indeed.
Eight days later, it got even better for the Huskies.
For 12 years, Oregon had bullied its most bitter rival to the north. It wasn’t just the way the Ducks had beaten Washington all those years in a row; it was also the manner in which they did it, with the first 11 of those wins coming by at least 17 points.
The Huskies’ 70-21 victory over Oregon on Oct. 8, 2016 was UW’s first in Eugene in 14 years, and it signaled a stunningly swift changing of the guard in Northwest supremacy.
No opponent had ever scored 70 points in the 50-year history of Autzen Stadium.
“I’d have to look down to see Cloud Nine,” UW offensive lineman Kaleb McGary said after the game.
The rivalry renews this week when Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) hosts No. 7 Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) in Eugene again. Here, a look back at how the Huskies ended the streak so dramatically last year, the ramifications of that game and what’s next in the rivalry.
In December 2013, one of the last questions of Chris Petersen’s first news conference cut right to the point: “You going to beat Oregon?”
Petersen chuckled. “We have to start that already?”
Then-Oregon coach Mark Helfrich had no prior knowledge that Petersen would be making the move from Boise State to Seattle. He didn’t expect a heads up, either, even though he and Petersen had been close friends for 20 years.
Mark Helfrich, Oregon head coach (2013-16)
“Not a surprise at all that he went there. I thought Washington was a place that obviously people had been highly successful at before, and it was ripe. It was a perfect time for someone like Pete to step in and have the success they’ve had.”
Petersen’s first game against Oregon as UW’s coach was in Eugene during the middle of Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy season in 2014. No. 9 Oregon ran away for a 45-20 victory, and Petersen has acknowledged that the margin could have been much worse that day. Two years later, both programs were in very different spots: The Huskies, coming off the huge win over Stanford, were undefeated and ranked No. 5. Oregon, riding a three-game losing skid, was turning to true-freshman QB Justin Herbert in hopes of starting a turnaround.
Matt Lubick, Oregon offensive coordinator (2013-16)/UW receivers coach (2017)
“You look at the games (Oregon) lost going into that game, it wasn’t really because of quarterback play. That’s what makes it hard. But we thought we needed a spark, and Herbert was doing some really good things in practice. We just felt like he might give us a spark. It was just that. It wasn’t a no-brainer. We wanted to show him, hey, we’ve got confidence in you.”
Justin Herbert, Oregon quarterback
“The week went by really fast. Obviously, I was nervous and anxious and excited to get out there.”
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Herbert was intercepted by UW All-American safety Budda Baker.
“If I could call that play over again, I would call something different. That one still haunts me.”
“Pete Kwiatkowski has done such a great job with that defense. The great thing they’ve done is they’ve been physical, and they’ve been able to get after the quarterback without really putting the secondary at risk. They’ve been very smart in how they’ve done that.”
Trey Adams, UW left tackle
“That first play, when Budda intercepted him, I knew we were going to win. Shoot, I knew we were going to win the whole time.”
“They were a really athletic defense. … I was just trying to pick up any valuable lessons I could. Unfortunately, the game didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but it was a great experience to get out there and learn from it.”
“He was shaken up a little bit, but he did battle back and he ended up having a good freshman year. He’s a special talent and a great kid. I wish the best for him.”
Four plays after Baker’s interception, Washington QB Jake Browning scored the game’s first touchdown on an easy 1-yard run. In the 12 previous games against Oregon, Washington had led for a total of 8 minutes, 11 seconds. It took the Huskies just 97 seconds to take the lead this time, and they would never trail.
Just before he crossed the goal line on his TD run, Browning used his left index finger to gesture at an Oregon linebacker trailing on the play. Browning received a 15-yard taunting penalty on the play (implemented on the ensuing kickoff), but it did earn him some added respect in the locker room. The Ducks love to celebrate “The Pick” off UW’s Damon Huard from 1994. Twenty-two years later, “The Point” became a seminal moment in the rivalry for UW.
Kevin King, UW cornerback
“I think that’s going to be a picture (of Browning) that’s going to be around forever in terms of this Oregon-UW battle. They talk about “The Pick?” Nah, they’re gonna talk about the finger wag.”
Myles Gaskin, UW running back
“That’s the type of guy we’ve got running our offense, and I love it. He’s fiery and he loves football. It’s good to see him do things like that. Usually you don’t see a quarterback with Jake’s stature (do that). He’s not just a stereotypical quarterback. … He loves to play ball, and that’s why I love him so much.”
Chris Petersen, UW head coach
“I know Jake’s competitive streak. Don’t let the even-keel demeanor fool you for a flat-out extreme competitor.”
Jake Browning, UW quarterback
“It was pretty dumb to do. It kind of sucks that it was such a big game, and that’s what everybody talks about, is pointing. I think that was pretty selfish on my part, and I’m not going to let that happen again.”
As is UW’s standard punishment for any personal-foul penalty, Petersen made Browning do 500 push-ups the day after the game.
“That’s always going to be dealt with. But it is what it is. Jake’s a great kid and does things right and things happen in the heat of the moment.”
The game got out hand in a hurry. Washington forced a quick three-and-out on Oregon’s second possession, and Browning followed with the first of his school-record six touchdown passes of the day, to John Ross III. It was 28-0 midway through the second quarter and 35-7 at halftime.
Damon Huard, UW radio analyst
“Are you going to ask me about ‘The Pick’ again?”
“There were so many good games last year. The Oregon game was definitely one of my favorites. Any time you put up 70 points, it’s pretty fun. Especially on the Ducks.”
Troy Dye, Oregon linebacker
“The way we came out, we were just too flat. A big-time rivalry game like that, we needed to come out with more energy. They came out with more passion than we did, and it showed up on the scoreboard.”
“Obviously, I’m not playing and couldn’t redeem myself, but certainly I was happy for these kids and that team that they were the team that ended the streak. Because it just got old. It was fun to watch it in person, for sure. It’s certainly a game Husky fans waited a long time for. Things are back to normal here in the Northwest.”
Browning’s eight total touchdowns tied a Pac-12 record. Ross had three TD receptions, Dante Pettis had two, Gaskin rushed for 197 yards, and the Huskies finished with 682 yards of total offense.
“Actually, I’m going to say something nice about Oregon. I will say that is one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever played in. From the very first play, I was amazed. Here (at Husky Stadium) on third down is the loudest place. Outside of here, I would say Oregon is probably the loudest stadium I’ve ever played in.”
“Everyone’s been in a handful of those games where it just all clicked. And I think the Stanford game was one where it all clicked. It’s not usually going to turn out like that. We appreciate those games because you know it doesn’t always happen.”
In the week leading up to last year’s game, Petersen had publicly defended Helfrich, whose job security in Oregon was under scrutiny. After the game, Petersen was a bit downcast. If one hadn’t watched the game, it would not have been apparent he had just coached the Huskies to one of the program’s greatest wins in recent memory.
“I don’t like the score. I don’t. Because that’s not what we’re all about. I’m never into that (running it up). I don’t care what kind of rivalry you’ve got.”
“Hey, look, Coach Petersen has class. Win or lose, he always has class.”
“I know those guys, and they are the last guys you’d want this to happen to. It was one of those games where you’re looking and it’s like, How is this happening? We’re just trying to run the ball (in the second half).”
Bob Rondeau, UW play-by-play announcer
“I had no problem with it. Lord knows they did that to us a few times over the years.”
“I don’t think twice about that kind of thing. I think there was a lot of years of pent-up frustration (from UW fans). You’ve got to handle your business when you’re on the other sideline.”
Petersen said he was surprised Helfrich was fired at the end of last season, following Oregon’s 4-8 finish. Helfrich is now in his first season as a FOX broadcaster, and he says he has mixed feelings about a potential return to coaching. He’ll be in the booth Saturday for Washington State’s game against Stanford.
“Absolutely. You kidding me? He was playing in the national championship a couple years before. It’s crazy. … He’s going to have a bunch of opportunities. You’ll see. This is what it will be. If he wants to keep coaching, it’s going to be two or three years and he’ll be the hottest guy on the market.”
“I root for him all the time.”
New Oregon coach Willie Taggart will take part in his first Washington-Oregon game Saturday night at Husky Stadium. So, Coach, you going to beat Washington?
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Willie Taggart, Oregon head coach
“I know the feeling when it comes to Oregon and Washington. I’ve heard that from Day One what it’s like. But I think every game we play has to be a rivalry game, and that’s the way it’s got to be if we want to get where we want to go. We can’t just make one game bigger than the others.”
“I think he’s done a really, really good job. I mean, obviously. You just watch these guys play and the talent they have and the energy they play with. It definitely is a new dynamic down there, for sure.”
“Growing up in Eugene, I know how important Oregon football is to all the fans and everyone around it. I know how that rivalry is. I know we’re going to do our best to get things back on track.”
“I’m sure they’re going to be pretty pissed off and are going to come in here ready to go. Rivalry games, anything can happen, and we hate the Ducks just as much as they hate us.”