UW Football | Nothing for UW getting easier
The Washington Huskies must wonder at times if this isn't some form of NCAA punishment that wasn't noted in the fine print. For a third consecutive...
Seattle Times staff reporter
EUGENE, Ore. — The Washington Huskies must wonder at times if this isn't some form of NCAA punishment that wasn't noted in the fine print.
For a third consecutive fall, the Huskies are heading to Eugene, where they're as welcome as the Dixie Chicks at the Republican Convention.
"It's been a real house of horrors for us lately," said UW linebacker Scott White.
In fact, Oregon has beaten Washington a combined 76-27 at Autzen Stadium the past two years. And due to a quirk in the Pac-10 schedule that many UW fans figure is worthy of an Oliver Stone movie, the Huskies are required to play there again this season (don't worry, Oregon is actually coming to Seattle next year).
After four consecutive defeats for Washington — the past two in overtime, and three that weren't decided until the final play — it's tempting to wonder if that "house of horrors" isn't about ready to collapse today on the reeling Huskies.
"That's what everybody seems to be waiting for," White said when asked whether the Huskies are in danger of teetering off the brink. "But I don't think this team is about that. I think this is a resilient group. Look at the seniors, the guys who have been here four, five years. All we've done is take hit after hit after hit, with coaches leaving and losing seasons, and we've come back strong. Guys are here to fight."
And as uninviting as Autzen figures to be, the Huskies oddly might actually be back in their comfort zone. The 26-23 overtime defeat against Arizona State last week highlighted a strange trend in which the Huskies have played better on the road compared to home games.
Washington @ Oregon, 12:30 p.m., TBS
The Huskies have been held to an average of 252 total yards in their past four home games, including desultory defeats against Oregon State and ASU.
But in four road games this season — three against ranked teams Oklahoma, USC and California — UW is averaging 416 yards and went down to the last play against the Trojans and the Bears.
"There's more of an us-against-the-world attitude when you go on the road," UW coach Tyrone Willingham said attempting to find an explanation, while admitting he'd rather the team simply play well everywhere.
But even if the Huskies can handle the crowd today, the Ducks themselves might be another matter.
The Huskies are down to their backup quarterback, Carl Bonnell, who has suffered a sprained shoulder and a concussion in his first two starts since taking over for Isaiah Stanback. If he suffers more pain today he could be replaced by backup Johnny DuRocher, who played at Oregon in 2003 and part of 2004 before transferring. Bonnell has thrown seven interceptions the past two weeks and faces an Oregon team that allows opponents to complete 53.8 percent of their passes, the lowest mark in the Pac-10.
That only adds to the theory that the Huskies will try to run against an Oregon defense allowing 162 rushing yards a game, ahead of only woeful Stanford in the conference. Kenny James should be back from an ankle injury that held him out last week, and the Huskies might use Johnie Kirton more in short-yardage situations after giving him one carry last week.
But Washington hasn't scored more than 24 points since beating UCLA 29-19 on Sept. 23, and will likely need more than that against an Oregon team that leads the conference in scoring offense (36.6), total offense (457.1) and rushing offense (192.6).
The triggerman for Oregon's attack is mobile junior quarterback Dennis Dixon. Some wondered this week if the Huskies have an advantage going against similar quarterbacks in practice all season, such as Stanback, Bonnell and Jake Locker, all good runners.
Washington coaches said the bigger issue is Oregon's diverse offense, which also features running back Jonathan Stewart (639 yards) and two 6-foot-5 receivers (Jaison Williams and Jordan Kent).
"They have so many different guys and so many different ways they can attack you," White said. "We've just got to be disciplined with our eyes this week and just play one play at a time and not try to do too much."
That Washington's season has unraveled the past month — 0-4 in October — has taken some of the focus away from the fact this may be the Huskies' most heated rival, something Willingham said he learned quickly last season.
The Huskies need to win two of their last three games just to get the needed six victories to be eligible for a bowl game.
"When you get down to the latter part of the season, every game takes on a larger presence because you are running out of games," Willingham said. "On top of that, this is a rivalry game and is important to the Husky family. This is a big one."
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.