Oh where, oh where, have those big bad Huskies gone? What was once a proud and confident (some might say arrogant) group of players, coaches and boosters on the shores of Lake Washington, have shriveled to a shameful and insecure collection of sub par recruits, unappreciated coaches, and a diaper-clad fan base with more excuses than a high school sophomore an hour past curfew.
Kenny Wheaton's famous, or infamous depending on your allegiance, interception October 24th, 1994, will forever be the benchmark which launched a resurrection of a program mired in mediocrity, while simultaneously imploding a nationally recognized cog in the college football success factory. The Oregon Ducks went from an insignificant player in a conference fraught with history, to Pac-10 Champion and national title contender, while the Washington Huskies began a tailspin consisting of NCAA violations, a merry-go-round of coaches, and diminished expectations previously thought to be unthinkable.
It's hard to believe that a nineteen year old freshman could wield such power.
Gone are the likes of Sonny Sixkiller, Warren Moon and Mark Brunell. Nearly forgotten are great players such as Corey Dillon, Steve Emtman, and Lincoln Kennedy. And previously pivotal players such as Billy Joe Hobert, Beno Bryant, and Mark Bruener are lost in a past which seems closer to two centuries ago, opposed to two decades.
No more National or Pac-10 Championships. No more All-Americans or first round draft picks. And certainly no more "attitude" which formerly superseded the mere mention of the Washington Huskies.
Do you think Damon Huard would like that throw back?
Since that sunny October afternoon in '94, the Ducks have a record of 106-50 and have averaged nearly a third place finish annually in the Pac-10 Conference, while in that same time, the Huskies have gone 79-69-1 and have averaged 5th in the conference, including an 8-26 mark over the last three seasons.
They stumbled their way through a stretch of Jim Lambright, slithered their way through a stretch with Rick Neuheisel, and almost comically played through the Keith Gilbertson tenure, all mistakes in some way, shape, or form, and all a rung on the downward ladder to the conference cellar.
They've gone from gold helmets, to purple helmets, and back to gold helmets.
They've gone from pro style offense, to option attack, to spread hybrid offense.
I guess my point is; they've lost their identity, and it all can be traced back to one player, on one day, against one team whose time had come.
The Huskies have become a punch line in a conference they used to punch. In conversations which they used to laugh, they're now being laughed at. They're in a flat spin out to sea and are incapable of reaching the eject handle. Heck, the only light they've had in the long dark tunnel of the last thirteen years, is coach Tyrone Willingham, whose track record of success and integrity is impeccable, yet he's unappreciated and begrudged for his efforts and is slowly being shown the door by many Husky faithful.
The Oregon Ducks will enter Husky Stadium Saturday afternoon with a top ten ranking, hopes of a conference championship, and an expectation of success. They'll look to score via a myriad of plays, using a multitude of players, be it young or old, experienced or fresh-faced. And they'll look to do it often. This won't be through hope or a leap of faith, but due to confidence built on a decade and attitude of winning.
Something Washington lost thirteen years ago.
So here's to another Duck victory, another Husky loss, and another decade of "The Pick," the straw that broke the Dawg's back.
Game Day: D-Day for Da Huskies
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