BY Steve Rudman 11:34AM 10/15/2014

What sports feat would you most like to see?

Washington fans would like nothing more than a win over the Ducks, but is that the most desired sports feat among followers of Seattle’s college and pro teams? Vote here.

A collection of throwback items from the Nike Store that commemorate “The Pick,” Kenny Wheaton’s famous interception in 1994 that helped spark Oregon’s rise to prominence. /

Apparently, one play can change everything. Consider the improbable event that occurred late in the fourth quarter (a minute to go) of the Washington-Oregon game Oct. 22, 1994, in Eugene. The Huskies trailed 23-21, but quarterback Damon Huard drove his team to the Ducks’ eight-yard line. Riding a five-game winning streak following a season-opening loss at USC, No. 9-ranked Washington seemed poised to improve to 6-1.

Facing first and 10, Huard threw a quick out pattern to Dave Janoski. Catastrophically for Huard and the Huskies, that was exactly what Kenny Wheaton of the Ducks figured they were going to do.

A 5-foot-9 freshman cornerback from Phoenix, Wheaton, by his own post-game admission, had no historical sense of the Washington-Oregon rivalry, saying, “I had no idea that this was a big game.”

But Wheaton, in watching film, noticed whenever the Huskies were inside the 20, they almost always ran a quick out.

“I went with my instincts,” said Wheaton, who was in single coverage on Janoski. “It was a gamble, but a gamble I felt I had to take. If they ran anything else, it’s a touchdown.”

It was a touchdown – for Wheaton. He picked off Huard at the three and took it 97 yards for the clinching score. Elated Oregon fans tried to rip down the goal posts in Autzen Stadium, but couldn’t get them down.

“This is the most depressing loss since I’ve been at the University of Washington,” said star running back Napoleon Kaufman. “In fact, this is the worst loss I’ve ever been involved in. We’re supposed to beat Oregon.”

Wonder what Kaufman would say now.

From 1975 through 1993, spanning the entirety of the Don James era and the first year of Jim Lambright, Washington went 16-3 against the Ducks. Since the Wheaton touchdown, now famously known as “The Pick,” the Huskies are 4-15 against Oregon, including 10 consecutive losses by almost unfathomably lopsided scores.

The Oregon program didn’t spin north on a dime immediately after Wheaton’s shocking score, but the Ducks went to the Rose Bowl after the 1994 season (for the first time since 1957) and many will argue that “The Pick” served as the catalyst. Nike, the chief underwriter of University of Oregon sports, even makes this claim on its web site: “The play that brought the Oregon football program to power.”

Even if it didn’t, even if the Oregon renaissance is really about ex-coach Chip Kelly, this much is true: Before Wheaton, the Ducks had an all-time record of 359-336-34, a .495 winning percentage. Since Wheaton, Oregon is 177-65, or .731.

It’s the last 10 years that particularly gall purple passionistas, who have enviously watched Oregon’s rise to national prominence as their own program lapsed into irrelevance before slowly emerging from the murk.

This is the stark contrast between the schools since Washington’s last win, a 42-10 decision Nov. 10, 2003 at Husky Stadium when Keith Gilbertson presided over the UW program:

Category UO UW Skinny
Total points in series 436 173 Ducks have scored 40 or more 7 times
Average score in series 43.6 17.3 Biggest Oregon win 53-16 in 2010
Conference titles 3 0 Ducks finished first in 2009, 2010, 2011
Overall record 103-31 45-76 Ducks have had 3 coaches, UW 4
10+-win seasons 7 0 Includes 3 12-win years (2010-12)
Bowl victories 5 2 UO’s last 3: won Rose, Fiesta, Alamo
Years in final AP Top 25 8 0 5 times in Top 10; best No. 2 in 2012
Consensus All-Americas 4 0 Last for UW: OL Olin Kruetz, 1997
Conf. players of year 7 0 Includes offense, defense and freshmen
All-conference players 32 5 Bishop Sankey last for UW in ’13
Players drafted by NFL 49 18 Currently 27 Oregon, 14 Washington
No. 1 draft picks 5 2 Oregon will have a sixth in QB Mariota

Nov. 10, 2003. Saddam hid in his hidey-hole. Ichiro had just concluded the third of his 10 seasons with the Mariners. The SuperSonics had five more seasons in Seattle before decamping to Oklahoma City. Felix Hernandez was two years away from throwing the first of his 31,478 pitches to 8,425 major league batters. That’s how long it’s been since Washington defeated Oregon.

If a rivalry is defined as hotly contested games with wins and losses falling fairly evenly on both sides, Washington-Oregon has ceased to be one. But the Ducks intend to treat it as such Saturday when they will rub Washington’s noses in the historical turn of fortunes by the two programs by wearing special “throwback” 1994 game jerseys to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Wheaton pick six.

Of course, Washington should be thoroughly insulted. But can the Huskies do anything about it? Oddsmakers say no way, favoring the Ducks by three touchdowns to extend their winning streak to 11.

Both are 5-1, Washington’s loss coming against No. 23 Stanford, Oregon’s vs. No. 16 Arizona. Coach Chris Petersen, once an Oregon assistant, twice defeated the Ducks when he coached Boise State. Still, no one is foolish enough to say the Huskies have caught up with the Ducks yet. But has Washington progressed to the point that an upset Saturday is possible?

Given Washington’s 10-game losing streak, the 106-game span of the rivalry, and with Oregon favored by 21, an upset would rank among the biggest regular-season wins in UW history, probably even eclipsing the 1994 Whammy in Miami, in which the Huskies ended the Hurricanes’ 58-game home winning streak.

But is a Washington win over Oregon the local sports feat you would most like to see?  Choose from the list below. Comments are encouraged.

Oh, and in case you wondered: After a short pro football career that ended with a knee injury, Kenny Wheaton became a personal athletic trainer, based in Dallas.


  • Jamo57

    I was at that game sitting in the Oregon section. The people around me were pretty nice folks for the most part and I congratulated the guy sitting next to me and said I thought they had a good shot to go to the Rose Bowl given how their scheduled laid out going forward (all the key games at home). He responded by saying (in a typical beaten down sports fan manner, “I don’t want to jinx it by even thinking about that, let me just enjoy this moment.” LOL.

    PS, I still can’t figure out why the Huskies didn’t make more use of the Heisman candidate, Napoleon Kaufman, on that drive. The coaches outsmarted themselves. I’m not going to watch the video clip but my memory is the Huskies were on the right hash mark and through that pass to the far side of the field.

    I would like to add one additional option on the list of votes: “The NHL expand to Seattle”.

    • BoBo

      Agreed Jamo57. The Huskies had been running the ball right down the center of the Ducks D on that drive. Two more running plays and they would have most likely scored a TD. How history might have been had the Huskies stuck with what was working. You could tell that Wheaton knew exactly what was coming the moment he saw them line up. I’ve never understood that play call.
      As a Duck fan I will always remember how my sense of impending doom changed immediately to elation with that play. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what would then happen in the following decades.

      • Jamo57

        Since ‘The Tip’ last year I’ve been wondering if that play will signal a “changing of the guard” for the Hawks, much like “The Catch” signaled the rise of the 9ers and fading of the Cowboys or “The Pick” is looked at as the beginning of the rise of Oregon.

        I checked the 9ers championship history on Wikipedia and it took 3 more seasons for SF to win their second Super Bowl and 4 more seasons after that for them to win their 3rd. The 5th came in the middle of the following decade.

        The point being sometimes it takes decades to see what was the catalyst, and also to help Hawk fans chill a little bit over the bump in the road the past few weeks may turn out to merely be.

  • poulsbogary

    What most have forgotten about that game, but not me, is that if you were watching the game live on tv, and you tached it all the way through to the end, you would have seen an oregon linebacker(whose name–insignificant to the story, as most oregon football players are in the sceme of things–escapes me) run up behind Huard, the starting qb, and start jawing him in the face. The game had been decided, and Huard was just walking off the field minding his own business, and this punk comes out of nowhere and starts giving him the business. It was the most classless move I have ever seen in any sporting event.
    I strongly believe that a connection can be made between the beginning of the end of college football as we knew it, and the rise of the oregon football program. Makes me want to puke. College football to me has become unwatchable because of duck football.

  • jafabian

    Until the 1994 game, Washington/Oregon matchups meant more to Oregon than it did to Washington. As Napolean said, we’re supposed to beat them. After that game things changed and Husky Nation became enraged not so much at Wheaton’s interception but of the Oregon player who (maybe accidentally) headbutted Damon and bellowed in his face.

    But as much as I’d love the Dawgs to play spoiler and smash the Ducks National Championship hopes as well as the Sounders taking the title, above everything else I want to see Seattle represented in the World Series. The WS is a notch below the Super Bowl in American sports and is recognized internationally. Second would be for Lorenzo Romar to take the Dawgs to the Final Four. The NBA couldn’t say Seattle doesn’t support pro sports if those happen!

  • RadioGuy

    I’m with Jamo on adding the NHL to the list of choices, although I took the Mariners. What can beat playing in the World Series? Oh, and another choice could be a Jerramy-Hope MMA match in the middle of a courtroom (only Judge Judy could ref that one).

  • Pixdawg13

    A bit of a slip, Steve: “Both are 5-1, Washington’s loss coming against No. 23 Stanford, Oregon’s at No. 16 Arizona.”

    The Oregon loss to Arizona this year was in Autzen Stadium. Last year the waterfoul lost in Tucson.

  • notaboomer

    ultimate’s greatest play of course: