With star Shaq Thompson and an improved Huskies defense, can UW finally beat Oregon?
The emergence of Thompson, along with UW’s improved play on defense, gives the Huskies their best hope to end a 10-year losing streak to the rival Ducks this Saturday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington @ Oregon, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1
By now, whether you like it or not, you should know all about the exploits of Marcus Mariota, the Oregon junior quarterback considered by many a favorite to win the Heisman.
Saturday night in Eugene, Mariota and the No. 9 Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) will host the Huskies (5-1, 1-1) and their suddenly stout defense that has a darkhorse Heisman candidate.
Shaq Thompson’s 100-yard fumble return in Washington’s 31-7 victory at California was his fifth touchdown of the season — fourth on defense. The emergence of the junior linebacker as a bona fide star, coupled with improved play across the defense over the past month, gives the Huskies their best hope to end a 10-year losing streak to the rival Ducks.
A UW win over a top-10 team in which Thompson plays well on national TV would go a long way toward further raising his profile.
“If he scores a key touchdown against Oregon and UW wins, he might start to gain traction as this year’s vogue defensive candidate,” said Chris Huston, who runs the website HeismanPundit.com. “He could by the end of the year end up on quite a few ballots.”
The Huskies have also scripted one series each game for Thompson to play running back, and he has nine carries for 84 yards this season, including a 57-yard TD run. A few more carries, and a few more big runs, would likely catapult Thompson’s Heisman stock, too, Huston said.
Thompson, projected by some as a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, has scored three touchdowns this season on fumble recoveries and another on an interception return. At Cal on Saturday, he also had a game-high 11 tackles, earning national player of the week honors by Athlon magazine for the second time this season.
If Thompson keeps this up, Huston said the Husky just might become that outside-the-box Heisman candidate that many pegged UCLA’s Myles Jack — the former Bellevue High star — to be in the preseason.
“His ability as a dynamic guy to finish with the ball in his hands, that’s where he’s really special,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.
The Ducks, who on Sunday opened as a 19-point favorite over UW, lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 43.3 points per game.
It’s the second consecutive week the Huskies will face the conference’s most-prolific scoring offense; Cal averaged 50 points and the Huskies held the Bears to only one touchdown Saturday in Berkeley.
“You always want to compete against the best,” Kwiatkowski said of the Ducks, “and they’re one of the best.”
UW has been outscored 436-182 over the last decade, with Oregon winning each of the last 10 games by at least 17 points.
“We know Oregon’s going to be hyped up at home,” UW senior receiver DiAndre Campbell said. “We just need to go in there and do what we do.”
Oregon rebounded from its first loss of the season, at home to Arizona, with a 42-30 victory at UCLA on Saturday. TV cameras captured UCLA coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich arguing on the sideline during the game.
“When you play a team like Oregon,” Mora told reporters afterward, “you’ve got to be almost perfect to beat them.”
With Thompson leading the way, the Huskies hope they’ve finally found the answer.
|UW has not beaten Oregon in a decade but the 5-1 Huskies are looking to change their fortunes Saturday when they travel to Eugene to play the 5-1 Ducks.|
|2013||Oregon 45, Washington 24|
|2012||Oregon 52, Washington 21|
|2011||Oregon 34, Washington 17|
|2010||Oregon 53, Washington 16|
|2009||Oregon 43, Washington 19|
|2008||Oregon 44, Washington 10|
|2007||Oregon 55, Washington 34|
|2006||Oregon 34, Washington 14|
|2005||Oregon 45, Washington 21|
|2004||Oregon 31, Washington 6|