Washington Braces For Ducks And Dog Biscuits -- Lambright Expects One Of `Nastiest' Games
EUGENE, Ore. - Not one player on this Washington football team has ever lost to Oregon. Most were freshmen the last time the Ducks scored a touchdown against the Huskies.
The Huskies, winners of five straight against Oregon, are unbeaten against the Ducks in the 1990s - a trend they hope continues today when they play the Ducks at Autzen Stadium.
But the almanac says the Ducks are due. They have averaged one victory against Washington every five years since 1974. The Ducks have won three of the past 20 meetings, each victory an upset. The last Oregon upset came exactly six years ago, when the Huskies were ranked 17th.
The Huskies (5-1) are ranked ninth, while the slow-starting Ducks (4-3) are unranked. Nonetheless, ABC television will broadcast today's game live to a regional audience.
"Potentially, this game could be one of the nastiest of the season," UW Coach Jim Lambright said, "because of the commitment of the Oregon staff and the fans to beat us."
Part of the usual treatment from fans at Autzen Stadium is a shower of dog biscuits. On one occasion, Lambright put one in his back pocket. Former Husky Dave Hoffmann took the biscuit and ate it in front of teammates.
"It was one of those nice, big ones," Lambright said, "for a large German shepherd or a large Husky."
A similar attitude might be in order today when the Huskies face one of the Pac-10's better quarterbacks, Danny O'Neil, and one of the conference's best defenses against the run.
Forecast as one of Washington's easier games - Oregon was once 1-2 with losses to Hawaii and Utah - the matchup deserves to be reconsidered because of a Duck resurgence that included a 22-7 victory against USC on Oct. 1.
Oregon plays on Omniturf, an artifical surface few teams use. The hard turf is considered more punishing than Astroturf.
The Huskies have lost six of their past eight games on the road, but most were on grass. By comparison, they have won nine of their past 11 road games played on artificial turf.
The last time the Huskies played here, in 1992, they were ranked No. 1 and won 24-3.
Oregon has the nation's No. 15 rushing defense, having allowed an average of 105.1 yards per game, about 60 yards below Napoleon Kaufman's average.
"You can't stop Napoleon Kaufman," Oregon Coach Rich Brooks said. "You hope you can stop him from making long runs. You can't concentrate on him too much. Washington's got too much offense.
"Right now they're playing better than anyone in the league. They have the most balanced offense I've seen. Our offense is not firing on all cylinders."
OREGON DEVELOPS RUNNING GAME
Like Washington's, Oregon's offense is more balanced than it was a year ago. The Ducks still have O'Neil, one of three 3,000-yard passers in the Pac-10 in 1993. They also have the beginnings of an established running game led by tailbacks Dino Philyaw and Ricky Whittle, who combined for 307 rushing yards last week against Cal.
The Ducks average 147.9 rushing yards per game. Surprisingly, the Ducks average only 168 passing yards.
O'Neil has had a strange season, beginning with a freak infection on his throwing hand. It bothered him against Iowa, sidelined him against USC, and seemed to be a factor when he was shut down by Washington State. In victories against Iowa and Cal, O'Neil failed to pass for more than 100 yards.
"They have a much better running game to balance Danny's passing," Lambright said.
DUCKS' OFFENSIVE LINE VULNERABLE
The most vulnerable part of Oregon's offense is its line, manned by three sophomores, a freshman and a junior. Oregon has allowed 3.3 sacks per game. But the elusive O'Neil is nonetheless considered difficult to sack. He also has thrown only six interceptions, a total he accumulated in one game last season against Washington.
O'Neil lost his favorite receiver, Cristin McLemore, to an ankle injury. Philyaw and sophomore receiver Dameron Ricketts have picked up the slack. The surprise of the season has been freshman Patrick Johnson, a track star in high school who was not heavily recruited for football.
BURDEN MAY BE ON HUARD
Defensively, the Ducks' strength is their secondary, though a knee injury to cornerback Herman O'Berry has slowed them. Still, they lead the conference with 12 interceptions. If the Ducks take away the run, the burden will be on quarterback Damon Huard and receivers Eric Bjornson and Dave Janoski to challenge the Ducks deep.
The Huskies did that successfully last week against Arizona State. Mistakes by the special teams, which hurt the Huskies against Miami, UCLA and San Jose State, were mostly eliminated last week.
Oregon, which has committed 17 turnovers in seven games, can't afford mistakes. Washington has scored 50 points on 15 opponent turnovers.
"We have a five-game series," Lambright said. "Step by step, we want to reach a goal of 10-1. We want to build like mad on that. We've got something going now."
-- Washington will make its fifth appearance of the season on ABC. Only Michigan has appeared more often (six).
-------------------- WASHINGTON AT OREGON -------------------- - 12:30 p.m., Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
- TV/radio: ABC (KOMO, Channel 4) will broadcast game live; PSN will show tape Sunday, 8 p.m.; live radio KOMO (1000 AM).
- At stake: Oregon, one of five Pac-10 teams with one conference loss, has outside shot at Rose Bowl. But for Ducks (2-1, 4-3) the Washington rivalry is the biggest factor. Huskies (2-1, 5-1) are playing for rankings, respect and Heisman votes.
- About Oregon: The unranked Ducks lost two of their first three games, falling to a pair of WAC teams, but have won three of their past four. Rushing defense is rated 15th nationally (105.1 yards per game). Ducks have lost five in a row to Huskies (17 of past 20). No. 1 quarterback Danny O'Neil is back in the lineup. Running backs Dino Philyaw and Ricky Whittle are coming off 100-yard games, but hamstring has limited Whittle this week. Offensive line starts three sophomores.
- What Oregon must do: Stats suggest Ducks can limit Napoleon Kaufman without having too much of the defense key on him. If Kaufman is stopped, Huskies are forced to throw - not necessarily good news for Ducks but better than having Kaufman run over them. Pressure is on the Ducks' young offensive line to protect O'Neil, who was pressured into throwing six interceptions last season against the Huskies. Both teams have to establish running games. The first to do so will control the game.
- What Washington must do: First, worry about stopping Philyaw and Whittle. The two average a combined 168 yards per game and are coming off victory over Cal in which Philyaw rushed for 130 yards, Whittle for 177, the highest combined rushing yardage by two backs in school history. Husky defensive line must penetrate the backfield and get to O'Neil. Offensively, Huskies wait and see how Oregon will defend Kaufman and adjust from there. Quarterback Damon Huard and receiver Eric Bjornson had a breakthrough game last week as ASU keyed on Kaufman. The same might be asked of them this week.
- Injuries: Washington - NT Steve Hoffmann (knee), WR Eric Bjornson (knee), probable. Oregon - DE D.J. Cabrera (shoulder), OT Steve Hardin (leg), FL Cristin McLemore (ankle), QB Tony Graziani (ankle), OG Bob Baldwin (ankle) are out; TB Ricky Whittle (hamstring) is probable.
- Line: Washington by 8 1/2.
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