Saturday, November 5, 2011
Washington needs Husky Stadium magic
By Ted Miller
SEATTLE -- Washington is hoping to squeeze out a last bit of Husky Stadium magic tonight and thereby end a seven-game losing streak to Oregon, its most hated rival.
This will be the last game in the crumbling but majestic venue on the banks of Lake Washington, and it hasn't housed much good football for the past decade. Things certainly are on an uptick under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian -- Washington is already bowl eligible for a second-consecutive year after going 0-12 in 2008 -- but ending a blowout streak against the Ducks remains high on the check list of must-dos for the program to be fully back.
Of course, everyone has been losing to the Ducks of late. They're riding a 17-game conference winning streak.
Still, Oregon's dominance has been remarkable. It has averaged 43.6 points per game during the winning streak; Washington has averaged 17.1. Washington’s last win came in 2003.
It's reasonable to expect the Huskies to score more than 17.1. They've eclipsed 30 points in every game this season and rank fourth in the conference with 35.6 yards per game.
It's the 43.6 that matters. The Huskies' defense needs to hold Oregon, which is averaging 47.5 points per game, to fewer than 40 points. That's an arbitrary number, yes, but as good as the Huskies' offense is, it's not good enough to hang, say, 45 on the Ducks.
Problem: The Washington defense has been mostly terrible this year. It ranks 10th in the conference in scoring defense (33.4 ppg) and 10th in total defense (430.4 ypg).
Solution: If the Huskies hit their averages tonight, they've got a chance.
There is some question whether the Oregon offense will be its typical, slick self. For one, RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas have been banged up. Thomas, in fact, was yanked at halftime after throwing two interceptions against Washington State. That ignited a mini-storm early in the week as to whether he or Bryan Bennett would start. That storm subsided: Thomas is the guy.
But will he be an efficient passer and effective runner, as he wasn't last week?
Also, will James be back to his lickity-split self?
If the Ducks win an 18th straight conference game, they will take that streak to Stanford next weekend for the Pac-12 game of the year. The Cardinal is riding a 17-game overall winning streak.
First things first, though.
The Huskies will need the Ducks to be out of sync and probably will need to take some chances with stunts and blitzes. They also will need to win the turnover battle. And they will need to dig deep in the second half when opposing defenses often start to get tired against Oregon's up-tempo attack.
They are honoring the 1991 national champion team tonight, with coach Don James and most of the players on hand.
Perhaps their presence will provide some of the old Husky magic. There was a time, after all, when the home team was pretty fearsome inside this venue.