My entire adulthood has been spent hating the Oregon Ducks. That day in 2004 when the Ducks beat Washington 31-6, kicking off a nine-year (and counting) win streak against the Huskies? That was my 20th birthday, October 30, 2004. Since then, the closest the Dawgs have come to knocking off their johnny-come-lately rivals is a 34-17 defeat at Husky Stadium in 2011. Suffice it to say a great deal of vitriol has been built up over nine years of losing.
Anytime an opponent waxes the floor with you for nearly a decade, it’s hard to tolerate just about anything having to do with that opponent’s existence. I’ve learned to loathe Oregon with a passion outweighing similar levels of disdain held for any other rival in any other city in any other sport. Nothing evokes pure disgust, pure detestation, pure revulsion quite like the University of Oregon. I don’t want to beat them every year; I want to destroy them. I want to run up the score on them. I want to embarrass them, to crush them, to make them look as inferior as inferior can be. And yet my team hasn’t supported me on this quest for a proverbial mountaintop borne out of spite. They, like so many others, have been unable to topple the mighty Ducks. And so each year as the annual matchup with our hated foes arrives, we sit here and stew in a cesspool of frustration, anger, and hope.
It is the hope that allows us to expect the improbable each passing season. Beating Oregon would surely be unanticipated — they’re ranked second in the nation for a reason — but more likely to occur this year than in any year among the nine prior. Consider the circumstances:
Washington gets to play at home, in a newly-renovated stadium, in front of what will be a raucous, sellout crowd. The last time these two teams played at Husky Stadium, in the aforementioned 2011 matchup, the final score was as close as its been in any meeting throughout this streak of futility.
Then there’s the Gameday factor. Having ESPN Gameday on campus for the first time in school history will certainly ramp up any ordinary excitement Husky fans would possess for this contest. By the time the masses hit the turnstiles at the stadium, energy should be at its absolute peak for the day.
Finally, we have the team itself. This is without a doubt the most talented roster the Huskies have fielded in a decade. Ranked 16th in the country entering Saturday’s game, Washington will be better equipped to pull off an upset than at any time in recent memory. Playing a fifth-ranked Stanford program down to the final drive on the road a week ago has tested this squad and prepared them to handle the potential adversity they’ll be facing against a superior opponent.
But it isn’t all sunshine and roses here on Montlake. The Huskies have their warts, and those warts are not insignificant.
For all its talent, this Washington team is incredibly undisciplined. The Huskies may have been able to thwart Stanford a couple days ago were it not for 10 penalties that amounted to 89 yards in favor of the Cardinal. On the year, the Huskies have been penalized for more yardage than their opponents in every single game they’ve played. That includes a season-high 16 penalties for 130 yards against a lowly Idaho State team. Their penalty averages, as a result, aren’t pretty: 10.6 penalties per game for 91.8 yards over five contests is nothing short of disappointing. But it gets worse.
Rather than publicly taking blame for their shortcomings, coaches and players alike have been looking for excuses. Pointing fingers at officials, making claims about the morality of their adversaries (Are they or aren’t they faking it? Does anyone even care?), and setting a precedent for shoulder shrugging and responsibility shirking has put the Husky program in a precarious position. If Washington wins games, there’s no blame to go around and therefore no need to find a scapegoat for the blemishes on the team’s résumé. But should losses occur, it’s up to the coaches and players to shoulder the burden of their own mistakes — at least in the public spectrum and within the media — and avoid the potential of any future distractions down the road. In excusing some of the more blatant offenses of the ballclub’s performance thus far, the program has set itself up to be unnecessarily interrogated for what we can all agree is stupid, mindless shit. Whaddaya think about David Shaw’s comments about your comments, Sark? Huh, huh, huh? Whaddaya think, huh?
The good news: this story can be entirely rewritten in just a few short days. Conquering Oregon would alter the course of the entire 2013 campaign for Washington, putting the team in line for a BCS bowl berth and officially returning the program to a level of status they haven’t enjoyed since Y2K was still a thing we all made jokes about.
This is it. This is your season’s turning point, Huskies. My entire adulthood can be changed for the better thanks to the outcome of just one game. I would like nothing more than to see you go out and throttle the Ducks…I’ll settle for a nail-biting win, though.
Put distractions aside, avoid mistakes, avoid costly penalties, tighten up everything, be accountable, be active, be fast, be perfect for a day and win. Win. You can do this, Dawgs.