Oregon is 2-4 on the year and well on their way to the Ducks’ worst season in a decade. A humiliating 70-21 loss to rival Washington — breaking a streak of 12 straight wins — seemed to be a low point however for a program that was one of the darlings of college football and in the national title game not too long ago.
That kind of lopsided game at Autzen Stadium is quite rare for the home team and prompted plenty of criticism from both inside and outside the team about the direction the program was headed in. One of the more eye-brow raising comments came from one of the team’s veteran offensive lineman after the game.
“We’ve got some guys on our team who are busting their tails to win and other guys on our team that don’t even care if we win or lose,” senior Cameron Hunt told the Eugene Register-Guard, estimating 30 to 40 percent of the team falls into the latter category. “I don’t think everyone is bought-in.”
Head coach Mark Helfrich addressed the media after practice on Thursday and tried to downplay any notion of a rift on the team, directly refuting that part of the team has given up on the season.
“Guys are speaking very emotionally after a game. They’re frustrated and competitive guys and you say things that are not true,” Helfrich said. “There’s no truth to what was said. Guys are frustrated and that’s fine.”
Oregon is on a timely bye this week and Helfrich noted he met with a good portion of the team individually as well as various position groups about all that is going on. While there’s been plenty of talk that he may be on his way out with such a bad season unfolding, he said he has felt plenty of support from athletic director Rob Mullens despite the team’s current record.
You can certainly understand a few college-age players getting frustrated after such a bad loss like the one the Ducks went through against Washington and it makes plenty of sense that a head coach would come out and refute any notion that the ship is sinking. Still, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the team’s comments going forward as they face an uphill battle the rest of the season to even make a bowl game.
Washington’s 70-21 victory over Oregon last week was the program’s first over their Pacific Northwest rivals in a dozen years.
Naturally that kind of big win set off plenty of celebrations among the Huskies but none seems to have been as costly as the one quarterback Jake Browning suffered the following week in practice. The normally reserved signal-caller was the first Washington player to reach the end zone against the Ducks and broke out of his comfort zone a bit by channeling his inner Dikembe Mutombo and wagging his finger at a nearby linebacker to draw a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul.
While that was about the only negative for the offense on a day where they did just about everything they wanted to Oregon’s defense, it turns out that was a costly penalty for Browning personally. According to the Seattle Times, the quarterback was hit with a 500 push-up punishment from head coach Chris Petersen as a result of the 15 yard penalty.
While that is standard operating procedure for players who draw the foul under Petersen, it is a rare one for a quarterback to get hit with. Perhaps as a sign of respect for the sophomore who is entering the Heisman Trophy conversation, several of his UW teammates offered to serve some of the punishment in his place.
“Everybody raised their hand and told him we’d do something with him. So that’s how everyone felt about it,” cornerback Kevin King told the Times. “We stand behind Jake. When we have a quarterback like that, he’s just a fighter. Things like that, he’s not a cocky guy — we all know his character. He just got caught up in the moment. For us, that’s exciting to see.”
Probably not quite as exciting to see as the final scoreboard at Autzen Stadium was after a 49 point win but it was certainly a tone-setting type play for the Huskies that was probably still worth it despite all those pushups later on.
Not surprisingly, a former highly-touted recruit is garnering a significant amount of interest in his second go-’round on the recruiting trail.
Blake Barnett‘s high school football coach told 247Sports.com that Cal, Oregon, UCLA and Washington have already spoken to him about his former player. Additionally, Florida, Miami and Michigan State have expressed interest.
An unnamed source also told the recruiting website that Texas A&M has spoken directly to the quarterback about moving on continuing his collegiate playing career with the Aggies.
Late last month, reports began to surface that Barnett had decided to leave Alabama. A short time later, and after Nick Saban expressed hope Barnett would stay, the program confirmed that Barnett had officially withdrawn from school.
Barnett, who started the opener against USC but held on to the job for just two series, was a five-star 2015 recruit who 247Sports.com rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country. The California high school product originally committed to Notre Dame in November of 2013 before decommitting from the Irish in June of the following year.
Reportedly, Barnett is enrolled at a junior college with the hope that, utilizing a loophole, he can play at the FBS level in 2017 after sitting out the first four games next season.
Perhaps there is a changing of the guard going on in the Pac-12 North. After years of being dominated by Stanford and Oregon, the past two weeks of college football have not gone well for the Cardinal or the Ducks, with both Washington and Washington State flipping the division in their favor in blowout fashion.
Washington established themselves as the Pac-12 team to beat with dominant authority in the past two weeks. It started with a Friday night blowout of Stanford last week, 44-6, and continued Saturday night with a 70-21 romp at Oregon. Stanford had won nine of the previous 11 meetings between the two schools, and Oregon had been enjoying a wildly successful run of 12 straight wins against the Huskies. If Washington needed to prove they were a legitimate threat out of the Pac-12 by showing what they can do against Stanford and Oregon, then Chris Petersen and his pack of Huskies have passed that test with flying colors. Washington is the team to beat in the Pac-12, and there is no debating that.
Mike Leach continues to pull some tricks as well. Washington State is not to be overlooked just yet. The Cougars, like the Huskies, have also dominated both the Cardinal and Ducks to make some noise in the Pac-12 picture. Washington State had lost eight straight against Stanford, although that included a couple of close calls along the way, like last season’s 30-28 setback in Pullman. That streak came to an end last night as the Cougars racked up 42 points in a dominant 26-point victory in Palo Alto (42-16). That came a week after topping Oregon for a second straight season, which they certainly enjoyed.
Washington and Washington State have outscored Stanford and Oregon in head-to-head matchups 207-76. There has been no question which two teams are the class of the Pac-12 North this season. It is the two schools from Washington this season, which is somewhat odd to suggest given Washington State has been defeated by an FCS school and lost on the road at Boise State. But Washington and Washington State are already the only teams left without a loss in Pac-12 play this season.
There is still a bunch of football to play, but this year’s Apple Cup could be spicy.
It had been 12 years — 12 very long years — for Washington football but they took out their frustration from a dozen seasons of agony and losses to lay it on their Pacific Northwest rival Oregon in a 70-21 victory on Saturday night that all but cemented a power shift in the Pac-12 North.
And the worst thing for the Ducks might have been that the scoreboard didn’t even properly reflect the level of domination from their neighbors to the north either.
The Huskies first team offense averaged 10.1 yards per play in just over three quarters worth of work and racked up seven plays over 25 yards. They were paced once again by their terrific sophomore backfield tandem in running back Myles Gaskin (197 yards, one touchdown) and budding Heisman candidate Jake Browning at quarterback (six incompletions against six touchdown passes and two more rushing).
Washington’s defense also got involved in the dismantling by making life miserable on nearly every snap. JoJo McIntosh led the team with eight tackles, while Budda Baker snagged an interception on his first play of the game and Keishawn Bierria recovered a fumble to go with his five tackles.
If there was one bright spot for Oregon it likely came at quarterback in the form of new starter Justin Herbert. Though his first pass was picked off, he rallied to throw two touchdowns while doing his best to scramble out of several sacks. Three players had over 50 yards rushing for the Ducks too.
The win all but gives Washington the Pac-12 North title before the middle of October and the only tricky spots left on the schedule could be a road game at Utah and their in-state rivalry game at Washington State in the Apple Cup. The Huskies are already ranked in the top five of the polls and it’s safe to say they are legitimately a College Football Playoff contender right now.
As for Oregon, the blowout will only increase speculation as to the job status of head coach Mark Helfrich and further question his hiring of Brady Hoke to fix the still-leaky defense. The team will need to win four of their final six (four of which are on the road) to even make a bowl game.
It’s a spot that Huskies fans remember being in quite a few times at this point in the season but a feeling they certainly put to rest this year with a cathartic burying of their local rival on Saturday night.