Saturday marks the last football game at Husky Stadium in its current configuration before undergoing a $250 million renovation. It’s also Senior Night as well as a salute to the 1991 team on the 20-year anniversary of its national title season.
That led Washington coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday to say that one task for his team this week is to “not get caught up in all the things surrounding” the game.
Considering the opponent for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff – the 6th-ranked Oregon Ducks – that shouldn’t be a problem.
While the rivalry has been one-sided in recent years, Oregon winning the past seven and all by 20 points or more, UW players say it remains as intense as any come gameday.
“There are some heated discussions on the field, always,” said UW linebacker Cort Dennison.
And usually many more in the stands, as well.
But while fans of the schools can get notoriously cross with each other, UW players and Sarkisian did little Monday during the school’s weekly news conference to stoke the flames. Nothing along the lines of former UW coach Rick Neuheisel’s memorable assertion of Oregon as a “propaganda machine” at a similar news conference before a game in 2002.
In fact, Sarkisian went out of his way to praise Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
“I think the world of Chip,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got a very good relationship. I probably communicate with Chip as much as any other coach in our conference in season or out of season. I think he’s done a tremendous job at Oregon and they’ve gotten better since he’s taken over. It’s a real tribute and credit to him.”
And while Dennison said the “heated discussions” tend to be as great in number against Oregon as against any other Pac-12 team, he also said, “We have a lot of respect for each other, but we also realize that it’s a fun and heated rivalry and its going to be a fun game on Saturday.”
More fun for UW, though, if it could finally get a win in the series. Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since a 42-10 victory in Seattle in 2003 when Keith Gilbertson was the UW coach.
The Ducks had never previously won more than four in a row in the series (from 1928-31) before the current streak, which coincided with Oregon’s rise to national prominence and Washington’s fall from grace.
Dennison, though, said history won’t be much on anyone’s mind this week.
“The past is the past and this year is a new year and we’ve got to worry about where we are now and where they are now as a football team and focus on this week,” he said.
Southern California coach Lane Kiffin was reprimanded and fined $10,000 by the Pac-12 on Monday night for criticizing the officiating in the 21st-ranked Trojans’ triple-overtime loss to Stanford last Saturday night.
USC safety T.J. McDonald also was suspended for the first half of Friday’s game at Colorado for a late hit on Stanford receiver Chris Owusu in the fourth quarter of the Trojans’ 56-48 defeat.
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