It’s getting to a point where an entire generation might only know about Oregon dominating Washington.
For 11 years the Ducks have reigned supreme over their rivals to the north, creating a wound that has continually eaten at the Huskies and their supporters. It’s a point of pride for the Ducks; a portion of history the Huskies would rather forget.
And the only remedy for Washington would be a victory to finally end the longest winning streak for either side in the 112-year history of the series.
With that as the backdrop, the suddenly floundering Ducks come to Seattle and face Washington on Saturday night and potentially the best opportunity in recent seasons for the Huskies to put an end to the streak.
Oregon (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) is clearly not what it’s been, having dropped two of the last three games, including last Saturday’s double overtime home loss to Washington State. The Ducks have been porous on defense and hampered by inconsistent quarterback play while dealing with injuries at the position.
And Washington (3-2, 1-1) is further ahead in what was supposed to be a year of retooling under Chris Petersen as evidenced by its upset at USC last week, providing optimism that this could finally be the year the Huskies get the better of Oregon for the first time since 2003.
”I think it’s important to a lot of people around here, no question about it. It’s been going on, long-time rivalry, and I think it’s really important,” Petersen said. ”I was on the other side for a while and it was really flipped, and so on both sides, I think it’s an important game up here.”
Quarterback is the biggest question for Oregon and whether Vernon Adams is recovered from a finger injury. Adams has missed the past two games while Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie have shared the duties.
”We need to play better everywhere and obviously the focal point is quarterback and some of the issues that we’ve had at that position are obviously highlighted because of it,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
Should he be able to play, Washington knows quite well how dynamic Adams can be. Last year, while still at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for seven touchdowns against the Huskies in Petersen’s first home game as Washington’s coach.
The Huskies escaped with a win that day.
”I remember it very clearly,” Petersen said. ”There’s no need to peek at it.”
Here’s what else to watch as the Ducks and Huskies meet for the 108th time:
DOMINANT D: Aside from their loss to California, the Huskies’ defense has been dominant.
Washington leads the Pac-12 in total defense, rushing defense, scoring defense and red-zone defense. They’re outscoring opponents 66-7 in the third quarter and 79-23 in the second half. The last time Washington led the Pac-12 in total defense for a season: 1991.
”Those guys have gotten after people and playing with a ton of confidence and a great scheme,” Helfrich said.
ROLLS ROYCE: Shutting down the Ducks means keeping running back Royce Freeman from controlling the game on the ground. Somehow Washington State pulled out the victory last week despite Freeman rushing for 246 yards and two touchdowns, the eighth-highest total in school history. Utah had the most success this season, holding Freeman to 77 yards on 14 carries. Freeman needs 141 yards rushing to top 1,000 yards for the second straight season.
MIDDLE MAN: Washington will be without middle linebacker Azeem Victor for the first half against Oregon after he was ejected from the win over USC for a targeting penalty in the first half. Petersen disagreed with the call but didn’t risk further comment. Victor has been Washington’s best defender, leading the team in tackles and second in tackles-for-loss. Sean Constantine and Scott Lawyer will likely fill in until Victor can return in the second half.
PASSING FANCY: The numbers are a bit skewed by facing pass-happy Washington State, but Oregon is last in the Pac-12 in passing defense, giving up more than 320 yards per game and a 64 percent completion percentage. That’s good news for Washington freshman quarterback Jake Browning, who has thrown three interceptions and no touchdowns in the last two games combined.