No-huddle offense or not, there has been no success for Washington against Oregon the past eight seasons.
The Huskies’ most recent win against the Ducks came in 2003, when Shelton Sampson, a Clover Park High graduate, and Kenny James each rushed for more than 100 yards in a 42-10 smacking at Husky Stadium. Two coaches later, Washington has yet to solve Oregon.
The 23rd-ranked Huskies (3-1 overall, 1-0 Pacific-12 Conference) will use their no-huddle offense and a resurrected defense when trying to change the harrowing pattern in Eugene at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the No. 2 Ducks (5-0, 2-0).
Part of Washington’s plan against Stanford, which it upset 17-13 on Sept. 27, was to use a no-huddle offense. So, Washington’s defense has been practicing against pace – not the crazed tempo Oregon uses, but a brisker look than usual in practice.
“We challenged them quite a bit from a conditioning standpoint,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But, then as soon as those no-huddle periods were done, we went to a lot of assignment/alignment (work) and challenged them mentally. So, we tried to give them both phases of that.”
Like Stanford, Oregon has a consistent approach that makes opposing defenses mentally and physically weary. Though Ducks coach Chip Kelly claims Oregon does little different in the second half, the Ducks have used the final 30 minutes to run away from Washington the past three games, outscoring the Huskies 80-30.
“It’s tough because literally, the ref is trying to put the ball down and the center is trying to snap it,” Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “The (first-down) chains are never even set. Unless they substitute, that’s the time you can substitute. If they don’t substitute, you’re going to have a really hard time because you’re going to have people running on and off.”
Which can lead to a single mistake. Which, with Oregon, often leads to a touchdown.
Running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas is one of the fastest players in the country. He has just 31 carries yet has scored five times. Kenjon Barner, the everydown back, has an 80-yard touchdown run among his nine TDs. The Ducks have seven players with rushes of 17 yards or more. Washington has three.
Huskies safety Sean Parker played against Thomas in high school in the Los Angeles area. He knows what kind of problems Thomas can create.
“He just makes plays,” Parker said.
Which is something Washington did not do in its only other road game this season. The trip to Baton Rouge, La., resulted in a 41-3 loss to LSU. Sarkisian said he thinks that defeat is well behind his team.
“I really felt young coming out of LSU,” Sarkisian said. “… So many times, when you’re young guys, when it’s good, it’s real easy to keep playing good, but when it’s hard, how do you respond?”
The team responded well against Stanford. The Huskies’ defense, ranked second in the conference, held the Cardinal without an offensive touchdown.
But the offense has struggled. Washington is 10th in scoring offense in the conference at 23.2 points per game. Per usual, Oregon has been rolling, scoring 52.4 points per game.
It’s going to be loud in Autzen Stadium on Saturday night. Washington has a chance to snap a streak and step toward its best season in a decade. Or, the Ducks will continue their reign in what once was an even fight, huddles or not.