"Oregon is a big rivalry, so it means a lot to beat them," said Gilbertson. "I have a lot of respect for Oregon. They have a lot going for them.
"It's great for our guys. It has been a tough time for us and we have lost a lot of guys and for our guys to go out there and play like they played with the back-ups everywhere, with freshmen running backs and freshmen receivers, it was just a marvelous, marvelous night for us."
As wonderful and terrific and (insert your adjective here) as the game was for the Purple and Gold, the way it unfolded was as improbable as it was incredible.
Cody Pickett, the team's record-setting quarterback, took a blow to the head late in the first half and couldn't return for the second half. That left Gilbertson with the choice of going to the option-style attack of Isaiah Stanback or the drop-back approach of third-year QB Casey Paus. Given the experience advantage of Paus, Gilbertson said it left little doubt who to turn to.
"He couldn't remember anything in the first half," said Gilbertson of Pickett, who had a headache and felt nauseous after sustaining the hit. "So we knew we had to make a change.
"Casey is our main backup for quarterback," said the Washington coach. "Stanback has been practicing so much at receiver and Casey has gotten more reps."
With the Huskies down 10-7 leaving the locker room at half, all Paus did was lead the team to 35 unanswered points in the second half. He finished the game a brilliant 5-8 passing for 117 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown passes – a 10-yarder to Charles Frederick and a 63-yarder to Reggie Williams – were the first two of his career.
"Paus played an inspired game. I thought he was sensational," said Gilbertson of the team's backup quarterback, who entered the game 3-for-8 for 24 yards and an interception in his career.
"I think the competition between he and Isaiah has been a real positive thing. He's a very smart guy and he works to learn."
But in this blowout win for the Huskies, Paus was just one of the many promising stories for a program that has been through plenty of tough times this season.
The others were the emergence of the running game, led by a pair of redshirt freshmen, and an attacking defense that tied a season-high with seven sacks.
Both Shelton Sampson and Kenny James rushed for over 100 yards as the Huskies piled up 261 yards on the ground against a tardy Duck defense. While a week ago against USC it was Washington who had difficulty wrapping up, this week it was the opposition. Both Sampson and James took advantage.
Sampson finished with 131 yards and three touchdowns on six carries. James, the starter with Rich Alexis out, carried the ball 18 times for 104 yards.
Gilberson wasted little time in crediting the men up front for the success of the tailbacks.
"We handed it off to two young good backs, and they had some real good running lanes," he said. "The key to our running game tonight was blocking, good blocking."
As refreshing as it was for the Husky head coach to see his offensive line blocking and his tailbacks hitting holes hard, it was just as thrilling for him to watch his defense punish Oregon's quarterback tandem of Jason Fife and Kellen Clemens.
"The pass pressure was a big factor in this game," said Gilbertson. "It was a great defensive performance."
Washington finished with 14 tackles for a loss, and of the team's seven sacks nobody had more than one. Those who got in on the sack parade included Marquis Cooper, Owen Biddle, Jerome Stevens, Manase Hopoi, Terry Johnson and Tui Alailefaleula. The other was credited as a team sack.
Ahead for the UW lies a very winnable game at Arizona before a meeting in Strawberry Canyon with California the week after. And after posting wins over both Oregon schools and hanging tough for what could be the best team in the land in USC, this Husky team is starting to feel good about itself again.
"I think we feel like we are a pretty good football team," said Gilbertson. "For our seniors, what a great way to close out their careers at Washington with back-to-back wins over Oregon.