SEATTLE – For the Washington Huskies, it was just another loss to Oregon, this one 52-21 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene two years ago – no more or less remarkable than any of the other nine Oregon victories during the Ducks’ current 10-game winning streak over the Huskies.
It’s not surprising, then, that Oregon’s performance in that Oct. 6, 2012 game made a strong impression on at least one recruit in attendance for his official visit. He remembers the standard, positive features of Oregon’s program: “The fanbase, the facilities, how it’s like a family atmosphere.”
But when all was said and done, John Ross signed with Washington. Now, the sophomore receiver looks forward to his first trip back to Eugene since that official visit, as Washington visits Oregon for a 5 p.m. game Saturday (FOX Sports 1).
And he hopes this trip goes a little better for the Huskies.
“I know how loud it gets and everything,” he said. “I’m excited to play every team, but to get down to Autzen and play them – I’m pretty sure we’re underdogs – but just to go out there and to play our heart out and just pursue that win is going to be great.”
Ross, whose speed would likely fit in nicely with Oregon’s offense, said he gave strong consideration to the Ducks during the recruiting process while starring at Long Beach Jordan (California) High School. A four-star prospect, Ross also took official visits to UCLA, Oregon State and, obviously, UW. He was hosted at UO by former Ducks running back De’Anthony Thomas.
So, why Oregon? And why not Oregon?
“Just because coming out of high school, all we pay attention to is jerseys and rankings and all that,” Ross said, “but once you get deep into school, it gets different.
“As a kid, you don’t pay attention to more than just football. And just going there, I think it was my first official visit, so it was nothing like my high-school games. It was very loud, the coaches were amped, the players were amped, the crowd was just all over the place. The facilities were great. It was overwhelming for me, at the moment.”
Two years later, he has the ability to influence the outcome. Ross is UW’s leading receiver this season with 358 yards on just 13 catches, including touchdown receptions of 91, 55, 75 and 86 yards, plus a 20-yard rushing score.
And he’s coming off the first 100-yard game of his career, catching four passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in UW’s 31-7 victory at California last week.
“I’m not looking for a 200-yard game or a six-touchdown game,” he said. “I’m just looking to help contribute to the win.”
For the Huskies (5-1, 1-1 in Pac-12 play) to have a chance to win, he probably needs to contribute more than others.
“Definitely want to see him touch the ball, because he is dynamic,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “People are slowly starting to see where he’s at and figure things out. If you’re trying to make attempts to throw it to him deep, got to find some ways underneath to touch it. Different ways of touching it. Maybe even handing it to him. So we’re looking at it.”
Ross was asked about a column published this week in the Oregonian, the daily newspaper in Portland, that questioned whether UW-UO is still truly a rivalry after the Ducks’ decade of dominance. The Ducks have won each of the last 10 meetings by 17 points or more.
Despite that, Ross said, “I feel like it’s always competitive. Just like last year, they thought they were going to come in here and just run us off our own field, and we came and we gave them a dog fight (Oregon won 45-24, though led just 31-24 early in the fourth quarter), just like we’re going to do this year. It’s not going to be as easy as they think it is.”
And, he hopes, not nearly as easy as it was on Oct. 6, 2012.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple