SEATTLE – Buoyed by the kind of hubris earned through a decade of winning and nothing else, a section of Oregon supporters took over Husky Stadium on Saturday with three blunt, simple words, repeated again and again.
Their redundancy was fitting. “Ten more years! Ten more years!”
The way the Ducks again buried Washington, that edict sounded more like a statement of fact than a topic of wild fantasy.
Armed with perhaps their most talented football team since this losing streak began, the Huskies still weren’t good enough to beat Oregon.
And they weren’t as close as some assumed they’d be, either, wilting in the fourth quarter before losing 45-24 to the second-ranked Ducks while yielding 631 yards of total offense.
For the record, that’s 10 straight losses to Oregon (6-0, 3-0 in Pac-12), the longest streak in the history of the rivalry extended another year.
For the record, that’s 10 straight losses of 17 or more points to Oregon, too, for the Huskies.
For UW (4-2, 1-2), that’s frustrating.
“They’re a very talented team,” said UW quarterback Keith Price, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 182 yards. “They deserve their rank. But we’re not that far away from being right there, either.”
They’re closer than they have been, certainly. But the phrase “toe-to-toe” was tossed about liberally as a descriptor of this game in UW’s postgame interviews, and the final statistics suggest that might not be entirely accurate.
It was for a while, at least. The Huskies trailed 21-7 at halftime – and were being outgained 281-159 – badly needing a touchdown on their first possession of the third quarter to have any hope of sticking around.
They got that much, Bishop Sankey taking a fourth-and-1 carry 60 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown to cut Oregon’s lead to 21-14.
So unfazed were the Ducks by that score that four plays later, quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped a perfectly thrown, 65-yard touchdown pass into the hands of receiver Josh Huff, Oregon needing all of 1:07 to extend its lead to two touchdowns again.
“We had an opportunity to tie the ballgame,” Price said, “then they hit an explosive play right after we brought the game to seven points.”
“We kind of kept going back and forth, toe-to-toe, toe-to-toe,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said, “and they just didn’t make a mistake to give us a chance to get even with them. They just kept making their plays.”
Washington didn’t. And that was a game-long theme. After tying the game at 7-7 in the second quarter and moving the ball into Ducks territory, Sankey took a third-down carry near the first-down marker before fumbling. Oregon recovered, then drove 69 yards in eight plays for a touchdown.
Then after Huff’s touchdown catch in the third quarter, Price guided the Huskies to Oregon’s 5-yard line with a first-and-goal and a chance to again cut the lead to seven points.
But Price was sacked on first down, scrambled for a 5-yard gain on the next play and was brought down behind the line of scrimmage again on third down before UW settled for a Travis Coons field goal.
Even after Sankey’s 25-yard touchdown run cut Oregon’s lead to 31-24 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, it didn’t feel as if the Huskies fortunes were changing. Because again, Mariota spit in the face of UW’s hope with a 35-yard scramble on Oregon’s next snap, then fired a 30-yard pass to Addison for a first down to UW’s 6.
The Ducks scored three plays later. Then they scored again after a messy UW possession resulted in a punt, and that 45-24 margin established with 7:37 to play was plenty.
This is Oregon, now and for the past 10 years – fast, efficient, fast, strong and fast. Mariota looked capable of hoisting the Heisman Trophy at season’s end, slicing UW’s overmatched secondary for 24 completions on 31 attempts, 366 yards, three touchdowns, and another 88 yards rushing.
“I wonder if he’s one of the fastest in the country,” pondered Huskies defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha, classifying pursuit of Mariota as “extremely frustrating.”
More than one UW participant deemed the UO quarterback a “hell of a player.”
And Oregon is a hell of a team. For the 10th consecutive season, the Huskies remained beneath that distinction by comparison.