Friday, December 13, 2002
Washington travels over the border
By Todd Harris
Special to BCSfootball.com
If you have never been to Eugene, Ore. or Autzen Stadium, take my advice and make the journey. Consider it a required pilgrimage! It may be off the beaten path, but it is well worth the jaunt and when you get home you will thank me. If you don't have the means to make the trip without depleting all your funds, losing your spouse or your dog, then consider this your personal travel cliff notes.
Eugene is a classic college town, close enough to a large city (Portland) that when the pressures of college get too much, you can escape, but far enough away to be somewhat remote.
Now Autzen Stadium is another story all together. It is off campus and appears out of nowhere. When it is empty, it is far from daunting. Fill it to capacity on a fall afternoon and parade the Washington Huskies in, it might as well be proverbial Hell for visiting teams. Whether it's the noise, the proximity of the fans or the two-tone green astroturf, this place is spooky. That's spooky in a good way if you're a loyal Duck fan.
The beauty of being a small college town is the athletic program is the only show when it comes to sporting events. The history of this rivalry has favored Washington's superior athletes and big budgets -- at least that's how it used to be. The Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks do not like each other, and in the past 10-15 years, the table has evened out a bit.
Players from Oregon will tell you that in the past, this game was bigger for the Ducks than the Huskies. It has always been a big game for the folks in Eugene when the mighty big-city Huskies descended down from their Emerald City perch to pay a charity visit to the lowly Ducks. In recent years, however, it has been a nuisance game. The Huskies look forward to coming to Eugene like most people look forward to a friendly visit from the IRS audit agent.
What makes the game even better this year is that these two teams will not meet again until the 2002 season because of a scheduling rule in the Pac-10 which has teams skipping a team each year. When the Ducks and Huskies don't get to visit one another next year, I can hear Pacific Northwest security guards breathing a sigh of relief. Speaking of relief, the folks in Eugene -- out of love and concern for Washington coach Rick Neuheisel -- are assigning not one but three of Oregon's finest state troopers.
So whatever happens on Saturday, the hatred will most likely continue and probably intensify. But one thing is certain: After the final whistle, one of these teams will be a step closer to the Rose Bowl and the other team will have one more reason not to like their neighboring state, at least for another year or two.
Todd Harris is a sideline reporter for ABC Sports and is a regular contributor to BCSfootball.com.
|Like these folks at Autzen Stadium, Kesey caught Ducks fever at a young age.|