Coach's Corner

Upland birds are fair game to Washington Hunters starting this Saturday and it just seems like the perfect time for the Washington Huskies to finally get that "big win" they have been waiting for.

Sure, they will be the underdogs.

Sure, they will be in the most hostile stadium they will play in this year.

Sure, they will have to control the game by running the football, playing good run defense, and by winning the kicking game. It will be a struggle but a win over the Ducks would be well worth it.

A classic northwest match up between two programs that don't really like each other. The teams have been relatively close over the past 25 years even though Washington holds a 58-34-5 all-time record. During the 70's, it wasn't even close as the Huskies won 8 and lost 2, although one game the Ducks won 58-0.

Of course Washington came back the next year and won 66-0 and so began the bad blood.

During the 80's Washington went 7-3 against the Ducks, then in the nineties they went 6-4, and the two teams are 2-2 against each other since the turn of the century.

The Ducks are coming into this game just off a tremendous win over ASU and have only lost once so far and that was to the best team in the country. They have a veteran quarterback who is not throwing interceptions and are putting up incredible numbers with a hybrid passing offense. They are incorporating the "Utah" shotgun offense with a little "BYU" spread game to average close to 450 yards and 30 points per game.

Strong numbers, but not this year in the PAC-10. There are actually five teams in the conference who are averaging over 40 per game and one nearly 60 and almost every team in the league averages over 400 yards.

What happened to the defenses in this league?

About the only way to stay in games this year is to keep the other team's offense on the sidelines. Run the football and be conservative in your throws and keep moving the chains. Punt well and make them play the long field. This appears to be Washington's only real chance to win this game. Being on the road is tough and crowd noise will a factor, but keep trying to run the football and who knows, maybe this time at the end of the game the plays and breaks will go their way. The Huskies are certainly due.

Looking at UCLA's win over California last weekend helps give the Dawgs even more confidence. They stone cold shut down a back that California couldn't even begin to stop. The Bruins dominated a Cal Defense by pounding the run at them.

The Ducks have the 8th ranked defense in the conference and appear to be vulnerable. The Quackers have a big powerful defensive line but if you run their front early sideline to sideline and run your quarterback so they are always chasing him, you can wear down their big bodies by the fourth quarter.

Oregon has one of the worst punting games in the conference (only 34 yards net per punt). Get into a field position game with them and that would become a factor. Although their return games are better than the Huskies (everyone's are), they are last in kick off coverage as well as kicking extra points. This would be the perfect game for a kick off return for a touchdown or a blocked punt for a touchdown. Washington has not helped its offense all year by scoring on defense or in the kicking game. The time is now!

Although Kellen Clemens is a solid passer (top three in Pac-10) it is his running ability that must be kept in check. Oregon runs lots of one back shotgun sets and the quarterback fakes to the back or gives to the back on almost every play, then often becomes a runner himself after that fake. Clemens leads all quarterbacks in rushing so making him one-dimensional would really help the Huskies to win this game. He is a good passer but his running is what has been killing defenses so far this year. The secondary will have their hands full holding down Duck receiver Demetrius Williams, who may become the leading receiver in Duck history.

Conversely, the Ducks have two of the top interceptors in the conference. Washington's chances of winning this game will again be tied to winning the turnover battle. Hold onto the rock and don't throw any picks, and on defense just get two or three turnovers and the upset could take place.

Ultimately it could go right back on the shoulders of the offensive line and Louis Rankin and Kenny James. If the Huskies can successfully run the football, and it may take Stanback helping there, they could put themselves in a position to win this game.

This team of Huskies actually went out on the road against UCLA and played better than they had been playing at home. Although the crowd noise will be much worse in Autzen than it was in the Rose Bowl, the Huskies have been getting closer and closer with each game. Maybe this is the game where they will finally finish the job. Getting a win in Eugene could be a benchmark victory for this program.

I can't wait to make this trip, but keep in mind where you are going Husky fan. If you wear purple, expect some verbal (hopefully only verbal) abuse. Expect rudeness, and then be a good sport when it's all over.

That is what makes people the most angry – when you don't give them a reaction. Whether it be an opposing fan, an unstable web site operator, a neighborhood bully, or a spoiled child, it's all the same. They want attention.

Regardless of what happens, don't give it to them. It'll drive them crazy.

But most of all, enjoy the game! GO DAWGS!!

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