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Washington and Oregon Have a Fierce Gridiron Rivalry

Fans and athletes in college sports share a special bond: school pride. At no event is that pride more evident than at an old-fashioned rivalry game.

Each portion of the U.S. has its own intense college football rivalries: The Southeast hosts Alabama-LSU; the Midwest is home to Michigan-Ohio State; and the West Coast has Washington-Oregon.

On October 17, the newest installment of the battle between the Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks took place in front of more than 69,700 fans at Husky Stadium in Seattle. This was the 108th time the two sides had faced each other in a rivalry that dates back to 1900 and has been played nearly every year since.

Both sides were fired up for the game, and it turned out to be a thriller. The Huskies, down 26–13 in the fourth quarter, scored a touchdown with just over five minutes left in regulation to make it 26–20 but couldn’t capitalize on their final drive. This was the 12th straight victory for Oregon in the rivalry, but Washington still leads the overall series 58-45-5.

"It was a real gutty performance from our team,” said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich afterward. “We did a good job of focusing our guys on the game plan, especially with who the opponent was — it gets you on the edge of your seat, but we prepared for the stuff that really matters."

Old-fashioned grudge match

Though Oregon and Washington have been playing since 1900, the rivalry became especially heated near the end of the 1948 season, when both teams were part of the Pacific Coast Conference. After Oregon tied with California for the conference title, all teams voted on who should be sent to the Rose Bowl. Instead of voting for Oregon, as expected, Washington voted for California and convinced then-member Montana to vote for Cal as well, giving the Golden Bears the Rose Bowl appearance.

Since then, numerous other acts by fans and coaches have added to the fiery relationship between the two schools. Former Huskies coach Jim Lambright lobbied for Washington to be selected for the Cotton Bowl over Oregon in 1995. 

In 2000, the Ducks beat the undefeated Huskies, giving them their only loss of the year as UW went on to win the Rose Bowl and finish third in the nation. In 2002, Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel celebrated his win over Oregon by jumping up and down and taking pictures on the Oregon logo at midfield.

"It's a big rivalry that I don't think a lot of people outside of the region know about," said Oregon alum Ryan Westbrook, a member of the class of 2002. “I’ve grown up around the Duck-Husky rivalry. It’s a deep-seated rivalry no matter which side you’re on.”

Said Hayden Kazmark, currently a sophomore at Washington, “The fact that these two teams have been so even when they’ve played each other for so long makes this rivalry really fun. Growing up in eastern Washington, everything was about the [Washington State] Cougars [because] no one else was around. But with UW and UO so close, it really sparks a grudge match.”

The fans aren’t the only ones who get excited when these two schools play; the players are just as thrilled to take part in this storied game. “I like playing the Huskies,” Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. said after the game. “I know a lot of the guys on this team. It’s always fun playing here, and it was fun out there [today].”

Though the Huskies suffered a heartbreaking loss to one of their greatest rivals, after the game, both benches took to midfield to shake hands and congratulate each other on a hard-fought battle. This moment brought a settlement to the rivalry — until next year’s game in Eugene, that is. 

Photos: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images (action), Ted S. Warren/AP (fans)

washington oregon football rivalry
washington oregon football rivalry