What rivalry? To Oregon players, Washington Huskies are just another "faceless opponent"
Oregon has beaten Washington seven straight years, by an average of 26 points.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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That Chip Kelly. He's gone and taken the starch out of a once-great rivalry.
Or maybe it was the Oregon football program's seven straight victories that did it.
A tour of the Ducks' interview room after their win the other day over Washington State found the home team to be, well, matter-of-fact about the next opponent, which is Washington on Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
Certainly, the Ducks weren't dismissive. They weren't brash. They were respectful.
They were just sort of robotic about the Huskies.
That's a big change from some earlier days. Back in the 1990s, the teams traded nasty barbs about things like whether Oregon players had spat on UW's laminated bowl plaques that line the tunnel to the field.
"We always look at it as faceless opponents," said Oregon defensive end Terrell Turner.
Faceless opponents. That's one of the mantras Kelly has pounded into his team. The idea is to treat all of them alike, prepare for them the same way, make it all about the Ducks.
"No matter who we play — it could be the No. 1 team in the nation or the No. 117 team — we're going to prepare the same way," said rover Eddie Pleasant. "Anybody can get beat at any given time. Can't take nobody for granted."
You can't say Kelly hasn't been effective. He's 29-5 in three seasons at Oregon.
But the message doesn't do much to stir passions north and south of the Columbia about the historic antipathy between the sides, dating back more than a half-century (and probably much farther) to when Washington snubbed Oregon and helped vote California into the Rose Bowl in 1948.
"We're going to play just like it's anybody out there," said freshman Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. "We feel no matter who it is, it's a faceless opponent."
And no doubt the Huskies' facelessness is enhanced by the fact Oregon has dominated the series since 2004. The Ducks have won seven straight, and the average victory margin is 43-17.
Neither team has mounted a bigger streak in a series that began in 1903. The Huskies have four times won six straight, the first under the legendary, dour Gil Dobie (6-0-1 against the Ducks in the pre-World War I years).
Redshirt freshman cornerback Terrance Mitchell of Oregon was asked if he felt the Huskies' recent struggles in the series would rally them to a big effort.
"Faceless opponent," Mitchell responded. "I don't even know. Faceless opponent."
In Oregon, there used to be a commonly expressed position on the relative importance of Ducks rivals: The Huskies were bigger than the nearby Oregon State Beavers.
But you couldn't find that sentiment among the current Oregon players.
"Oh, Oregon State," said Kenjon Barner, the standout running back, about Oregon's biggest rival. "Washington's definitely a rivalry, but in-state rivalries are about in-state pride."
"Of course, Oregon State," said Pleasant, seemingly surprised at the question. "They're right up the street. That's our biggest rival. I heard Washington (was) a big rivalry back in the day."
Turner agreed: Beavers.
Of course, it was OSU that faced Oregon in both 2008 and 2009 needing only to win to get to the Rose Bowl. On the other hand, there are players on the Oregon roster who were in grade school the last time the Huskies won this game.
Informed that the streak stood at seven, Ekpre-Olomu said, "We want to make it eight, then. We want to have a great week of practice, and I'm sure it'll come true."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Oregon has rung up convincing victories in the past seven games between the Northwest rivals. This is the longest streak in the 112-year rivalry.|
|Oregon||Won 7||2004-2010||Duck margin of victories — 25, 24, 20, 21, 34, 24 and 37|
|Washington||Won 6||1908-1914||UW was 45-0-2 during the seven years|
|Washington||Won 6||1955-1960||Dawgs won by a point in '59 and '60; lost by a point in '61!|
|Washington||Won 6||1974-1979||Huskies crushed Ducks 66-0 in '74 after losing in Eugene 58-0 in '73|
|Washington||Won 6||1981-1986||38-3 win by UW in 1986 made it 12 wins in 13 years|