SEATTLE – Chris Petersen is taking No. 7 Washington this week back to the site of arguably his most important road victory since becoming the Huskies coach.
Washington’s 70-21 thumping of Oregon two years ago ended a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks and still resonates in the Pacific Northwest. It made an emphatic statement that the Huskies intended on being the dominant program in the region again.
But this trip to Eugene comes with some trepidation. Yes, the Huskies (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) are still favorites and have won five straight following the season-opening loss to Auburn. But the 17th-ranked Ducks (4-1, 1-1) are vastly improved from two years ago and are coming off a bye.
Then there’s Washington’s performance last weekend in the second half at winless UCLA. What appeared to be another blowout became a closer-than-expected 31-24 victory over the Bruins. While Washington was thrilled to escape the Rose Bowl with its first win against the Bruins in Pasadena since 1995, the shaky performance also raised a major question:
If rebuilding UCLA can give Washington unexpected problems, what could the Ducks do this week, especially with the extra time to get ready?
“Details. It’s always the details. It’s not any one thing, it’s all details,” Petersen said Monday. “It’s not kids not playing hard, it’s not kids completely out of position, it’s just a little bit here a little bit there. You get tired a little bit. It’s like clockwork, it always is this time of the season – you’ve seen a lot of things and kids kind of know how it goes.
“But can you execute your technique and your assignment a little bit better than they can? And that’s really what it was.”
The second-half numbers against UCLA were staggering. After building a 24-7 halftime lead, the Huskies watched UCLA run 41 offensive plays, gain 207 yards and score on three of four possessions. The Huskies made one key stop early in the fourth quarter after UCLA had cut the deficit to 24-17, but it was far from the complete effort Petersen expects.
And it’s not close to what will be needed against the Ducks, especially considering the recent history and the Huskies’ current standing. In the past two games, Washington has outscored Oregon 108-24.
“I think it comes down to that competitive spirit and what kind of guys you have to compete,” Petersen said. “All you can do is set the table for them and how it’s going to be. I think they know. The better anybody does, the more people are going to pay attention to you. And so it is what it is.”
Washington’s beating of the Ducks two years ago was remembered for quarterback Jake Browning pointing at an Oregon defender as he scampered into the end zone for a 1-yard TD on the opening drive. Browning had eight touchdowns passing and running that day.
The Huskies would love another day like that, but it’s not realistic. That was a struggling Oregon team the Huskies routed. This Ducks team is on an ascent and likely would be undefeated if not for a second-half collapse against Stanford. With the Ducks’ extra week to prepare, the Huskies understand they’re likely to see something Oregon has yet to show on film.
“We got more tape than we know what to do with in terms of studying. They figure out what they think your weakness is and if you haven’t done something well, they’re going to come back to it,” Petersen said. “That’s just football to me. That’s just game planning.”
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