Series Spotlight: A brief history of the Oregon-Washington rivalry

By Kyle Dubbels -

On Saturday, October 14th, the undefeated No. 8 Oregon Ducks travel to Seattle to take on the also undefeated No. 7 Washington Huskies in the final Pac-12 meeting between these longtime rivals. Here’s all you need to know so you can sound smart in front of your friends this weekend.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Series Began: 1900, Oregon won 43-0 in Eugene.

Series Lead: Washington leads 61-48-5.

Recent History: Oregon has won 15 of the last 18 meetings.

In Seattle: Huskies own a 32-23-4 record against the Ducks at home.

Winningest Coach in the Series: UW legend Don James won the first five games he coached in and was 15-3 overall from 1975 through 1992.

Largest Victory: Oregon crushed Washington 58-0 in 1973 with the Huskies returning the favor 66-0 in 1974. Both scores remain the largest margin of victory for either team in the series.

Series First: This will be the first matchup with both teams ranked in the top 10.

BAD BLOOD BEGINS

This rivalry began in 1900 when Oregon defeated the Huskies 43-0 in Eugene but didn’t really get started until some off the field backstabbing by the University of Washington in 1948. That year, both Oregon and the University of California went undefeated in the Pacific Coast Conference and the way to determine who the true champion was wasn’t through a head-to-head matchup, but rather a vote by the other teams in the conference.

As it happens, Washington convinced fellow member Montana to vote for Cal instead of Oregon, thus sending the Cal Golden Bears to the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon. Thus the rivalry was born.

FANS ON THE FIELD

“The Play” between Stanford and Cal wasn’t the first time that fans impacted the outcome of a Pacific Coast Conference football game. 

In 1962, the Oregon “Webfoots”, as they were nicknamed then, were trailing 21-13 with less than 3 and a half minutes left in the 4th quarter when they “staged a brilliant aerial game” that ended in a game tying touchdown and two point conversion. After stopping Washington on their ensuing possession, Oregon would get the ball back and position themselves for the game winning score. From the 50 yard line, Oregon quarterback Bob Berry would launch a pass into the end zone for Larry Hill but it was broken away by “hundreds of juvenile and adult fans who were milling around in the end zone,” per the Eugene Register-Guard.

THE PICK

The date: October 22, 1994.

That’s the day that freshman cornerback Kenny Wheaton became entrenched within Oregon football lore after making a play that would help launch Oregon football to their first Rose Bowl in 37 years, their first ever outright conference championship, as well as bringing the Ducks into the national spotlight. 

Clinging to a 24-20 lead late in the 1994 matchup, the Oregon defense was on the field trying to prevent the Huskies from scoring and winning for the sixth straight time. With the ball on the 8 yard line, UW quarterback Damon Huard, self proclaimed “most popular QB to come through Eugene,” stepped back and threw a pass to his left that was intercepted and returned by Wheaton 97 yards to secure the 31-20 victory and help propel Oregon to the conference championship and Rose Bowl. 

Oregon would dominate Washington from that year until 2015, posting a 17-4 record against their rival.

THE POINT

After losing twelve straight games against their rivals to the south, the 2016 Washington Huskies would break the streak in a big way. 

That matchup was played in Eugene and featured Jake Browning leading the Huskies offense against first time starting quarterback Justin Herbert. The UW defense would get to Herbert on the first play from scrimmage, intercepting his pass and setting the stage for the rest of the game. Four plays later, Browning would run the ball in from one yard out and punctuate the play by pointing his finger at trailing Oregon linebacker Jimmie Swain in a move that has now become known as “The Point”

It would be the first of 10 Huskies’ touchdowns on the day as they would dominate in Autzen Stadium 70-21, the second most points ever allowed by a UO team. The rivalry has been deadlocked 3-3 since that dominating win.

2023 MATCHUP

What will be in store for the 2023 version of the Oregon-Washington rivalry? Only time will tell. But if it is anything like the 114 meetings that came before, it’ll for sure be a memorable one.

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Comments (2)

This will be the last meeting between them to air on ABC for the foreseeable future as the Big Ten cut ties with Disney after last season.