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Originally published Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies seniors seek an end to football slump against Oregon

The implications for Washington's opener at Oregon on Saturday are well known — both for coach Tyrone Willingham's future and the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The implications for Washington's opener at Oregon on Saturday are well known — both for coach Tyrone Willingham's future and the success of this season. But there's also this: The Huskies are trying to avoid losing a fifth straight game to the Ducks, something that has never happened in the 119-year history of UW football.

The four straight losses by the Huskies ties the 1928-31 teams for futility against their rival. At least the Huskies haven't been shut out in all four of their latest defeats, as they were then. Not that that has anyone on Montlake feeling any better about it.

"Obviously, losing to Oregon isn't much of a Washington tradition that is accepted around here," said fifth-year guard Casey Bulyca, who has been around for all four of the previous defeats. "Hopefully, this year that changes. We've worked too hard, come too far, to go down there and not be able to give those guys a great fight and, hopefully, come out on top. They are a good football team, but so are we."

Said cornerback Mesphin Forrester, another fifth-year player: "It's hard. Oregon is a rivalry, just like Washington State, if not more than Washington State, and it's hard. It hurts not even beating Oregon [once], so on the 30th, we are going to go out there and just scratch and do everything we can do to beat Oregon."

For years it was a game Huskies fans could just about check off as a win before the season. Washington won 17 of 20 meetings from 1974-93, not so coincidentally during the coaching tenure of Don James, who was 15-3 against Oregon.

But starting with the famed Kenny Wheaton game in 1994, the Ducks have gone 8-4 against the Huskies, further inflaming feelings between fans of the teams.

"Everybody would rather see us beat Oregon as opposed to Washington State," Bulyca said. "Granted, it's great to beat both of them, but it seems like the rivalry between Washington and Oregon over the years has turned into a hate-fest, and that's what makes the game so exciting."

While the games the past four years have been relatively free of extracurricular activities — due possibly to the fact that all have been routs, with Oregon winning by a combined 165-75 — that doesn't mean the players haven't developed some of the same feelings as the fans.

"The players don't like each other," Bulyca said. "They went to Oregon, we came to Washington. They wish they could have come to Washington."

Said another fifth-year senior, guard Jordan White-Frisbee: "They are a good team and all, but that is a rivalry. Even the freshmen know. No one likes Oregon. Nobody. So I have all the confidence in the world, no matter what's said, all the hype, that we are going to going to go in there and do what we have to do."

Roper to start

Oregon announced Monday that projected starting quarterback Nate Costa will be out 8 to 10 weeks after being diagnosed with damaged cartilage in his knee from an injury suffered last week. That means sophomore Justin Roper will get the second start of his career. He also started Oregon's 56-21 win over South Florida in the Sun Bowl last year, going 17 of 30 for 180 yards and four touchdowns.

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Willingham said the biggest impact for the Huskies is simply now knowing who Oregon's quarterback will be.

Freshman Kelemete

earns starting nod

The Huskies released their first depth chart and there were a few surprises, though none bigger than the inclusion of true freshman Senio Kelemete of Evergreen as a starting defensive tackle. Kelemete missed the first week and a half of camp while an academic issue was resolved, but has impressed coaches since arriving.

Kelemete is listed at 6-foot-4, 260 on the depth chart but is said to be closer to 290.

Notes

Jake Locker met the media and hinted that while his hamstring is not 100 percent, he expects to be by game day. "It feels pretty good," he said. "It's still kind of a day-to-day thing and we'll see how it feels on Saturday."

• The depth chart also lists Juan Garcia as starting center, capping a remarkable recovery from a Lisfranc foot injury suffered last April.

• In other depth-chart surprises, freshman Jermaine Kearse of Lakes is listed as a backup receiver, ahead of the more heralded Anthony Boyles; walk-on transfer Nick Scott is listed as the backup left tackle ahead of Mark Armelin, the backup coming out of the spring; White-Frisbee is listed as the starting left guard with Ryan Tolar, the starter there last year, a backup at both guard spots and center; and Tripper Johnson is listed as the backup at free safety, with Jason Wells limited with a knee injury.

• The Huskies will bus to Eugene as part of an agreement between the athletic departments of Washington, Oregon and Oregon State to travel by bus for athletic events whenever possible. A UW spokesman said the agreement was made in large part as a reaction to the rising cost of air travel. Washington State is not included in the agreement because of the complications of getting to Pullman, which make it necessary for the teams to fly.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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