BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 10/06/2016

Thiel: Huskies face Ducks dynasty in full dive

The Ducks are considering giving a freshman quarterback his first career start Saturday against fifth-ranked Washington. That might be the worst idea since burlap lingerie.

The Huskies’ ball-hawking on special teams Friday against Stanford led to this fumble recovery by FB Lavon Coleman. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

I’ll take “Virgins and Volcanoes” for $500, Alex.

OK, Art. The answer is, “The Oregon Ducks.”

Who the hell is foolish enough to give a freshman quarterback his first career start against the fifth-ranked Washington Huskies?

Correct, Art. You control the board.

Well, I may not control the board yet. Oregon coaches haven’t confirmed a report this week that true freshman Justin Herbert would replace senior transfer Dakota Prukop for the 4:30 p.m. Saturday disputation with the Huskies at Eugene’s Autzen Stadium.

But during practice, the QBs were splitting practice reps, offensive coordinator Matt Lubick told the Oregonian.

“We’ve evened them out,” he said. “That’s one of the positions that we like to have competition at every week, but we’ve evened them out.”

While he said a decision hasn’t been made, he did agree it was possible that Herbert would be sacrificed.

The palm-to-forehead part of that quandary is that the offense is the one aspect of Ducks ball that is semi-OK. Prukop, a senior transfer from Montana State, started all five games, completing 92 of 139 passes for 1,173 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. The Ducks average 40 points a game, sixth in the Pac-12 Conference, and 520 yards, ranking fourth.

But in light of three consecutive losses, something unseen at UO since 2006, ooga horns are going off throughout the Willamette Valley. At 2-3 and looking at 2-4 with a large welt, the entire state couldn’t be more shocked than if Nike sold a good pair of shoes for $5 more than the $5 it cost to make them.

The “Ditch Rich” campaign is underway, this time referring to coach Mark Helfrich, not Rich Brooks, a Ducks predecessor 20-some years ago, before hashtag campaigns made coach firings even easier.

“Now we have a major challenge,” UO secondary coach John Neal told the Oregonian. “We’re one of those teams that has been great for a long time, and now we’re not. It’s a major challenge.”

It was less than two years ago that the Ducks played for the national championship, and now they act as if they are fearful of looking under the bed. The Ducks’ primary problem is defense, where they are giving up 36 points and 490 yards a game, both 11th in the c0nference.

Saturday the Cougars trashed the Ducks in Pullman 55-31, including — get this — 280 yards rushing. The Cougs run the ball like Kim Kardashian runs a jackhammer. But it was no problem against the Ducks.

“Almost every play they call is a pass and they check to a run,” said Helfrich. “(QB Luke Falk) did a great job of that. That balance was difficult for us to stop.”

The Huskies offense is similarly balanced, only with more talent. But Huskies coach Chris Petersen is not prone to giggle-fests when scouting opponents.

“I think everybody always over-inflates everything, on both ways — that’s what I think,” he said of criticism of the Ducks defense. “I think that they played some hard-fought games that they had chances to win down at the end and, for whatever reason, just didn’t do it. That can affect momentum one way or another. They played Washington State, a hard team to play, really well. In the fourth quarter, it got away a little bit.

“We’ve got a huge, huge challenge in front of us, is what I really, really think.”

Of course, Petersen believes he really, really has to say such things to keep his players from napping after the apex win over Stanford. This particular Saturday, however, that is as likely as falling asleep in porn class.

The Ducks have had it their way for 12 years over the Huskies. It’s true that none of the Huskies have experienced more than five of those. But does it take more than the previous meeting to marshal the adrenal gland?

Especially if the Ducks go through with the idea of starting Herbert to fix what appears to be unbroken. Herbert, a Eugene native, is a sturdy 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, but the youngster has almost no experience. He was handed mop-up duty in the Pullman blowout, and completed three of five passes for 70 yards. In explaining himself afterward, he almost sprained his golly-gee organ.

“It was really cool,” he said. “I was really nervous. Those guys came a lot faster than I was prepared for.”

And that was the Cougars defense. Imagine his surprise when LB Azeem Victor shows up in his face mask as the snap reaches his hands.

The Ducks coaches have a couple of days to think about this. Prukop is done after this season. Herbert might have a future in his hometown. He doesn’t want to start off his career known as the guy who threw the interception that turned the series in Washington’s favor.



  • Howard Wells

    nice zinger at the end, Art. ;-) The play that shall not be named…forever!!!!

    • art thiel

      Huskies had one long before Seahawks did.

  • Will Ganschow

    Lived in Oregon back in the 80’s then San Juan Islands and B’ham for 15 years. Back in Oregon, so have enjoyed the success of both programs. I’m happy to see the Huskies back, and would like to see Oregon bring in a real coach again ( maybe we could pry away Peterson with all the extra sneaker money we have.) Totally agree with what a bad idea starting Herbert would be.

    • art thiel

      Wow. A rational person who enjoys both sides. Who also plots intrigues. Please write more often.

    • Eric K

      Oregon blew their chance at Petersen when Chip left, no way he leaves UW now.

      Reportedly they tried to hire Kiawkaski as D coordinator last year to be met by laugter.

      Between Helfrich’s 11 mil buyout (yeah not a typo!) and the fact that so many top jobs open this season will push them way down in the pecking order Helfrich probably gets another year even if they lose every game but the Beavers, if they manage to lose even to the Beavers then all bets are off.

  • coug73

    …the guy who threw the interception that turned the series in Washington’s favor.

    I see the replay in my mind.

    • art thiel

      Had a hunch I didn’t need to provide more details.

      • MrPrimeMinister

        Some of us, perhaps many of us, have long memories. We don’t forget.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to a pick. If he wins, give Peterson the keys to the city.

    • art thiel

      He’d have to get a set made from Carroll’s set.

  • Effzee

    The flash of success Oregon had was all smoke and mirrors. A gimmick offense coupled with SEC-level cheatin’ gave them a cute little run of success. But over 100 years, the program was terrible, and it will return to being terrible. I hope they enjoyed it while it lasted.

    • art thiel

      I think 10-plus years of success near the top of the game is more than a flash. The cheating was likely neither less nor more than any successful program.

      The difference was Phil Knight. His money for facilities/coaches/admin was unparalleled, with the possible exception of T. Boone Pickens and Oklahoma State. But teak-lined lockers with wifi goes only so far, especially when everyone throws TV money at the same shiny objects

      • Effzee

        I realize. I just like to consider the whole 100+ year history of the football program, and in that context, 10 years is a flash. Makes me feel better.

        • art thiel

          That’s why I’m here — free therapy.

  • Vasili

    Oh my gosh–that second line of “worst idea since burlap lingerie” is terrific! Talk about ‘figur’ative language!

    • art thiel

      Gotta keep you moving through the words.

  • 1coolguy

    People don’t realize nor give credit to the fact their DC, Aliotti, left after 2013. He was one of the NCAA’s best DC’s and was responsible for the Zero’s shutdown defenses for over 10 years. It appears the O is doing ok, averaging 32 per game. Giving up 280 on the GROUND to WSU? What this tells me is Aliotti’s successor is the one who needs to be replaced, not Helfrich.
    As to starting a freshman who has not started a game? Ludicrous.
    And we all benefit from yet another Art classic: “This particular Saturday, however, that is as likely as falling asleep in porn class.” Bravo!

    • art thiel

      You’re right about the DC. Brady Hoke is not so much.

  • Eric K

    “And that was the Cougars defense…” even worse than that it was the Cougs back ups playing prevent D:-)

  • rosetta_stoned

    Keep in mind, during this run by Oregon? They have exactly the same number of Rose Bowl trophies as does UW during that span. One.

    And the same number of national championships. Zero.

    Pardon me if I’m less than impressed with their ‘dynasty.’

    • art thiel

      Well, there’s a back of the hand.

      I think you would swap records with the Ducks.

    • Mike K.

      *2 rose bowls.

  • Estip

    These are exciting times for Husky fans. We were hopeful before the Ducks game last year, only to be disappointed once again. This season is filled with hope and I hope the Dawgs crush the hated quackers.

    Nice column, Art. Lots of good imagery and humor. I was a UW student back in the mid 70s. The idea of a porn class… good one.

    • art thiel


      Given the desperate financial straits of colleges, I suspect porn will be a major soon.