EUGENE, Ore. – They were greeted with expletive-laden chants from a show-no-mercy student section, drenched by a persistent rain shower dumped on them by dark clouds hovering overhead and numbed by a shrill wind whipping through Autzen Stadium.
The Washington Huskies also had to play a football game.
None of it went well Saturday night, as a bad season continued to spiral out of control, with the UW handed a humbling 31-6 defeat by the Oregon Ducks before a sellout crowd of 58,101.
The loss was the Huskies’ seventh in eight outings, dropping them into epic misery, and setting up a last-place showdown with Arizona in Seattle.
Only once before have the Huskies opened a season with a 1-7 record – in 1973 – and they continue on a pace to surpass the worst mark in school history – an 0-8 start that finished 1-9 in ‘69.
“I’m sick about it,” a haggard UW coach Keith Gilbertson said, his team 0-5 in league games. “It’s exhausting. It’s disappointing for our team.”
Four interceptions by junior quarterback Casey Paus helped seal the Huskies’ first loss to Oregon in four years.
The turnovers kept his team from scoring a touchdown for the second consecutive game, and now nine quarters in a row.
Paus, who completed just 14 of 36 throws for 211 yards, made his most disastrous mistake on the first play of the fourth quarter. With his team trailing just 17-6 and facing second-and-goal from the Ducks 5, the quarterback tried to force one into Bobby Whithorne in the end zone.
Oregon linebacker Ramone Reed made a perfect break on the ball, stepped in front of the freshman wide receiver and made the steal, in effect deciding the game right there.
“The ball never should have been thrown,” said Paus, given his third opportunity this season to start. “It was a stupid mistake. It cost us.”
Said Gilbertson, “I don’t know where he was trying to pass the ball.”
With just over 4 minutes remaining, the Huskies quarterback paid for an ill-thrown pass with points, adding to his great discontent. Trying to dump a ball off to a back, Paus had it swatted into the air and gathered in by Oregon defensive end Chris Solomona, who chugged 10 yards to score and give his club a 24-6 lead. Making matters worse, Solomona originally was a signed UW recruit, didn’t qualify and headed to junior college and ended up with the Ducks.
The miscues wasted a breakout game by freshman wide receiver Craig Chambers, who made a sensational first start for the Huskies. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder from Mill Creek’s Jackson High School caught four passes for 106 yards, hauling in difficult, third-quarter grabs of 34, 35 and 31 yards and giving his team an elusive deep threat.
The last long catch put the Huskies on the Oregon 1, where they proceeded to lose 4 yards on a running play and cough up the ball on Paus’ game-deflating interception.
As has been the case for the past two months, one standout performance hardly made a dent in the outcome. The Huskies came up with only a pair of field goals, from 41 and 37 yards, from junior Evan Knudson, who wrestled the kicking job away from redshirt freshman Michael Braunstein. They rushed for only 45 yards on 30 carries.
Besides the killer plays by Solomona and Reed, the Ducks (5-3 overall, 4-1 Pac-10) received opportunistic defensive efforts from defensive end Devan Long and middle linebacker Jerry Matson, two Washington homegrown players from Anacortes and Mukilteo, plus big offensive showings from quarterback Kellen Clemens, wide receiver Cameron Colvin and tailback Terrence Whitehead.