It had been rumored for a while, but their fans were delighted when it became official: Simon and Garfunkel, the estranged singing duo, announced in September 2003 that they would reunite for a final tour that fall and winter.
They played 30 shows across the United States, including a stop in Seattle at a sold-out KeyArena on Nov. 1, 2003 — the same night the Washington Huskies blasted the Oregon Ducks, 42-10, before a crowd of 72,450 across town at Husky Stadium.
Simon and Garfunkel, it turned out, would tour again, teaming up for shows in Asia and Australia in 2009.
The Huskies, meanwhile, are still waiting for their next win over the Ducks, the count of consecutive Oregon victories now at 11.
So it is that the old friends renew their rivalry on Saturday, meeting at Husky Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. game that all of a sudden seems to present a reasonable chance for the Huskies to end their tortuous losing streak to Oregon.
For the first time since that game in 2003, the Huskies enter as betting favorites (by 2 1/2 points). And despite a season-opening loss at Boise State and a frustrating defeat to California, the Huskies somehow enter this game with a better record than Oregon, which has limped to 3-3 and has already lost two Pac-12 games — both at home.
The Ducks can still move the ball — they rank 16th nationally in offensive yards per play — but they don’t throw it like they did when Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was playing quarterback, and they haven’t played much defense, either, allowing more points per game (38.7) than all but two other Power Five conference teams.
Combine those surprising shortcomings with Washington’s equally surprising 17-12 upset victory at USC last week — the Huskies were 17-point underdogs — and a belief is born that suggests UW might finally, actually, really have a chance to beat the team by which it has been dominated for the last 11 seasons.
“Hopefully, we can make it a rivalry,” UW defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “Because right now, the last decade, it’s been one-sided.”
But if Oregon truly is down, Huskies coach Chris Petersen doesn’t see it.
“They’re one of the leading teams in the country in scoring points,” said Petersen, who was in his third season as Boise State’s offensive coordinator the last time UW beat the Ducks. “They run the ball as well as anybody, and they’ve got a really good play-action pass game. So, to me, it’s the same old Oregon team.”
He’s not wrong. Oregon tailback Royce Freeman, a bruising sophomore with uncommon speed for a man who stands 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, has rushed for 859 yards and nine touchdowns on 123 carries this season. Despite the Ducks’ problems at quarterback — Vernon Adams, who transferred to Oregon from Eastern Washington, could shore up those issues by returning from a finger injury — they still run the ball at hyperspeed.
According to Lake, Freeman is “fast, got great vision, he’s big, he’s elusive. The SEC gets all their hype, just like they do every single year. I’m just telling you right now: I know a lot of NFL scouts. Royce Freeman is the best running back in the country.”
Tackling him — and keeping up with Oregon’s fast-paced offense — will be a priority for the Huskies, who limited USC to 346 yards of total offense last week but still allowed the Trojans’ top two tailbacks to average 7.1 yards per carry.
“We (need to) just go in there and just try to stuff it and just play our technique,” said senior linebacker Travis Feeney, who won Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors after recording seven tackles and 2.5 sacks against USC. “Nobody try to do other people’s jobs and just do your job. Everybody swarm and tackle.”
That’s not something they’ve done well against Oregon. Feeney recalls last season’s 45-20 loss in Eugene: “I look at that game and I get frustrated and I just want to be able to put up a better fight.”
And, they hope, their first win against Oregon since thousands swayed to “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in the building where the Sonics still played.
Yeah, it’s been a while.
Oregon (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) at WASHINGTON (3-2, 1-1)
7:30 p.m., Husky Stadium
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM, 1030-AM.
The series: Washington leads, 58-44-5.
The skinny: Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2003, but the Huskies are favored in this game after a pair of surprising results last weekend — UW beat USC, 17-12, in Los Angeles, and the Ducks were upset by Washington State, 45-38, in double overtime in Eugene. … It’s already been a frustrating season for Oregon, which finds itself at 3-3 after a blowout home loss to Utah (62-20), a close loss at No. 7 Michigan State, then last week’s frantic result against WSU. The Ducks’ secondary has been suspect this season, allowing 7.0 yards per pass attempt, but Oregon’s front seven is still athletic and could put quite a bit of pressure on UW quarterback Jake Browning, who struggled in the Huskies’ victory at USC (16-for-32, 137 yards, 1 interception). The Huskies must protect him, and Browning has to be more accurate with his deep passes, too. … Expect UW to try to establish the run early with freshman tailback Myles Gaskin, whose patience and vision led to a few big runs last week against the Trojans. The Ducks allow opposing rushers to gain 4.28 yards per attempt. … As of Thursday, about 67,000 tickets had been distributed for the game. Husky Stadium capacity is 70,138.
The pick: Washington, 31-27.
Leading receiver is also a dangerous punt returner.
Vernon Adams Jr.
Will he return from broken finger to hurt Huskies yet again?
One of the nation’s best running backs.
Will be a tough assignment for Huskies LT Trey Adams.
Needs to be more accurate on deep throws.
Had 22 carries for 134 yards last week vs. USC.
Must plug the middle vs. a strong Oregon run game.
Likely to start at MLB in place of Azeem Victor.