SEATTLE – They gathered as one near the west end zone, making a circle around their coach. With the synchronicity of a well-oiled machine, the players began stomping and celebrating on the Husky Stadium turf for the final time.
This was exactly the way the 92-year-old facility was supposed to go out.
Except there was still a lot of football to be played, and those weren’t the 2011 Huskies out there making a scene.
After UW’s unbeaten 1991 team gathered for a short, celebratory reunion between the first and second quarters Saturday night, the current Huskies returned to the field and reminded everyone just how far away the glory days are.
A scrappy UW team did its best to hang with sixth-ranked Oregon for nearly three quarters before falling 34-17 in the final home game before renovation begins next week at Husky Stadium. It marked the eighth consecutive time that the Ducks have beaten UW and the fourth straight loss against an opponent ranked in the Top 10.
While Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian certainly has the program headed in the right direction, Saturday served as another reminder of just how far UW is from top-flight programs like Oregon … and the 1991 Huskies.
It may not have been the memorable stadium send-off that Husky Nation may have wanted, but UW (6-3 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) showed signs that the gap between the Huskies and Ducks might be incrementally closing. This was, after all, the closest game against Oregon since UW beat the Ducks 42-10 in 2003.
Like nearly every Oregon opponent this season, Washington hung around for the good part of three quarters before allowing the Ducks (8-1, 6-0) to pull away. Oregon scored on its first three possessions of the second half to turn a 17-10 halftime lead into a 34-17 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies rode the back of running back Chris Polk in an effort to keep the Oregon offense off the field, and the strategy was effective enough to keep UW in the game for a half that saw the Huskies nearly quadruple the Ducks in terms of time of possession.
But Oregon’s offense came alive for back-to-back touchdown drives to open the second half, and another one-sided installment of the I-5 rivalry was well under way.
Three turnovers, including a pair of first-half interceptions, four dropped passes and six Oregon sacks helped do the Huskies in this time.
The final sack came when the Ducks’ Dion Jordan blindsided UW’s Keith Price with 7:49 remaining, temporarily knocking the Huskies’ quarterback out of the game.
Freshman Nick Montana came on in relief and completed his only pass: a 53-yarder down the sideline to true freshman Kasen Williams.