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Originally published Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Clemens leaves Huskies defenseless in Autzen

Maybe there should be an asterisk. After all, Kellen Clemens spent most of this blustery, gray afternoon throwing against a depleted and...

Seattle Times staff columnist

EUGENE, Ore. — Maybe there should be an asterisk. After all, Kellen Clemens spent most of this blustery, gray afternoon throwing against a depleted and defeated Washington secondary.

Maybe there, at least, should be a footnote that the Oregon quarterback was filleting a defense that, all game long, seemed to get outsmarted.

But more probably, Clemens' record-setting game should be viewed as another step taken out of the giant shadows cast by some of the other slingers in his conference.

In a theater overflowing with full-throated supporters, Clemens performed surgery on the Washington defense yesterday, completing an Autzen Stadium-record 36 passes, throwing for 425 yards and four touchdowns in an easy 45-21 win.

He played pitch-and-catch with his receivers, who often were so wide open, you wondered if Washington had 11 men on the field.

"He's great. He's our leader on offense and he's going to continue to get better," wide receiver Demetrius Williams said. "When guys don't know where to go, he shows them the right places to go. He's somebody you've got to look to as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation."

After Oregon gave the Huskies some life, fumbling on their first two plays from scrimmage and spotting Washington a 7-0 lead, Clemens quickly showed that this once-great rivalry has become a game between the Haves and the Have Nots.

Clemens threw for 301 yards in the first half. With five minutes left in the third quarter, he had 407.

He dropped a downy fade pass to Demetrius Williams for a 1-yard touchdown. He caught Washington in a three-deep zone, sent four receivers into the pattern and completed a 30-yard pass to Williams, alone, behind three Huskies defensive backs.

Coming off a bye week, Washington had an extra week to prepare for Clemens and his Oregon offense. But it could have had the entire offseason and still couldn't have stopped him.

"I love watching our offense," Oregon defensive end Devan Long said. "I mean it's just so much fun to watch."

In a conference that has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, USC's Matt Leinart, and Arizona State's Sam Keller and UCLA's Drew Olson playing quarterback, senior Clemens is making his pitch and his pitches to be considered in their company.

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"It's all politics," Long said. "It just takes one guy with some clout to say a guy's good and then he's automatically good. But I go up against Kellen every day in practice, and I'd put Kellen up there with Matt Leinart. They're right about the same caliber. He deserves a lot more attention than he does get."

Clemens takes what the defense gives him, which in Washington's case was just about everything. Down-and-distance doesn't matter. There were times when he made this game look like a seven-on-seven drill. Stand in the pocket. Take your time. Sort through your possible receivers and deliver a strike.

When the Huskies dropped more defenders into pass coverage, Clemens swung passes out to running back Terrence Whitehead. When they tried to bring pressure, he beat it with slick, quick flicks to wide receiver Jaison Williams or tight end Tim Day.

"They were giving us the pass today and we were more than happy to take it," Clemens said.

Washington's pass rush was so pathetic, it couldn't afford the luxury of adding defenders in the secondary. And when the Huskies made halftime adjustments, Clemens and Oregon read them like a billboard.

"We did things today we haven't done all year," Clemens said.

Think about every great conference quarterback who has played in this lovely college setting. From Dan Fouts to Carson Palmer, from Joey Harrington to Mark Brunell. Add Clemens to that list.

"He made that dude jump offside today, and I said to him, 'That's some quarterbacking right there. That's all you,' " Whitehead said. "Right now, he's climbing in the record books. He's becoming a great quarterback."

Clemens' four touchdown passes gave him 60 for his career, tying him with Bill Musgrave for second on Oregon's all-time list. He probably will tie or pass Danny O'Neil's record of 62 next week at Arizona.

He sucked all the air of this rivalry. He exposed just how far coach Tyrone Willingham has to go to rebuild the moribund UW program. And Clemens showed he deserves to be considered among the best in the nation.

"We're 6-and-1. We're winning games and having fun," Clemens said.

Just like Washington used to do it.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

Passing the Huskies
Kellen Clemens 425 yards passing yesterday is the sixth-best performance by a quarterback against Washington and the best since 2002:
Yds Quarterback Opponent Year
500 Kevin Feterik BYU 1999
473 Major Applewhite Texas 2001*
469 Jonathan Smith Oregon St. 1998
443 Jason Johnson Arizona 2002
442 Akili Smith Oregon 1998
425 Kellen Clemens Oregon 2005
Holiday Bowl

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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