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Wednesday, November 13
Ducks, Huskies have 'a healthy hate'

By Ted Miller
Special to

In 1948, Washington voted for California and not Oregon to represent the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, and the Ducks have never forgiven the Huskies.

In 1996, then-Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel ran a fake punt with a big lead against Oregon and coach Mike Bellotti in the Cotton Bowl, and the Ducks have never forgiven Neuheisel.

Oregon has hated Washington for a long time. Washington started hating Oregon since the Ducks became a threat to the Huskies' Northwest dominance.

Then Neuheisel became the Huskies coach in 1999. Can you see where this is going?

On The Hot Seat
When Utah and Wyoming finish their game this weekend, one team will win, but both coaches probably will end up losers.

Utah's Ron McBride and Wyoming's Vic Koenning, based on the scuttlebutt surrounding their programs, are about to be fired.

While both are suffering through miserable seasons, they have arrived at their predicaments in very different ways.

McBride is a victim of his own success in the "what have you done lately?" world of college football.

Utah has appeared in six bowls during McBride's 12-plus seasons, after making only three such appearances in the previous 97 years. Until this year, McBride had only two losing seasons.

But mired at 3-6 after snapping a six-game losing streak last week, the Utes are out of bowl contention and the Mountain West Conference race after being listed among the preseason favorites.

"You got a big mountain of crap out there and you get to work your way through it," McBride said.

Conversely, Koenning is 5-27 in his third season and has failed to turn the program around in his first opportunity as a head coach.

The Cowboys have lost 11 consecutive conference games on the road, though they have lost four such conference games this season by an average of just 4.3 points.

But close isn't good enough.

"It's not fun around here right now," Koenning said.

McBride received support from an unusual source this week, Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone.

"I'm a huge friend of Coach McBride," Malone told the Deseret News. "Every now and then in life, you run into people in similar situations. And I look at him, and that right there (McBride's tenuous job security), to me, is disgusting. It's disgusting. They want to kick him out -- for no reason."

But the Mailman will have trouble delivering this one, even if McBride and the Utes beat Wyoming and conclude their season with a victory over rival BYU.

Last weekend's victory over UNLV was played in front of roughly 12,000 fans, though the announced crowd was 28,528.

Koenning, whose team started poorly because of a vicious non-conference schedule that included Tennessee and Washington, received support from Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick this week.

"Those guys are still playing as hard as those guys could play," Lubick said of the Pokes.

Both teams have experienced injury and off-field problems. Both teams have lost close games that sent the season into a downward spiral that has proven difficult to stem.

"When you get your stinger broke off, it's hard to recover," Koenning said.

Utah has dominated the series of late, winning the last two games by a combined total 69-0.

Both coaches, who are honest and forthright perhaps to a fault, would like another year to turn things around. But they also know that might not happen.

"I'll stand by what's been done here," McBride said. "But that decision is out of my hands."

Said Koenning, "We'd like an opportunity to see this thing through."

-- Ted Miller

Let's make it simple: Washington and Oregon own the bitterest rivalry in the Pac-10. "Let's just say we have a unique relationship ... It's a healthy hate," Washington receiver Paul Arnold said.

After taking a break from that healthy hate last season, the plan for both teams this year apparently was to avoid controversial statements that could incite the other.

Ah, the best laid plans of Ducks and Huskies.

Oregon free safety Keith Lewis started the fun last week by telling a Seattle radio station that the Huskies and record-setting quarterback Cody Pickett were "overrated."

Lewis then became the first player who Bellotti barred from talking with the media.

"I thought he was goaded into that," Bellotti said. "But I thought it was poor judgment. I'm not going to allow him to make any more poor judgments."

Then Neuheisel was asked Monday about Oregon's efforts to promote its program nationally as the leader of the Pac-10, and that also proved hard to resist.

"They certainly are a propaganda machine with respect to how they promote," Neuheisel said. "They've got billboards in New York City. They've got billboards in Los Angeles. They seemingly have an endless budget to do so. More power to them. Until the rules change, who's to keep them from doing it?"

Oregon fans and officials frequently note that the Ducks are the Pac-10's winningest program during Bellotti's seven-plus year tenure. Huskies fans counter that Oregon has never won a Rose Bowl.

"I think they spend more time talking about numbers and what's happened in the past than some of the other programs," Neuheisel said.

While the Oregon-Washington game typically plays a critical role in sorting out the Pac-10 race, Saturday's game at Autzen Stadium owns a different meaning. Both teams are staggering.

Since winning their first six games, the Ducks have lost three out of four, while the Huskies have lost four out of six. A victory would likely make the difference between a mediocre vs. a terrible season for both programs.

Obviously under strict instructions to keep their comments mild, the Washington players smiled meaningfully but wouldn't return fire at Lewis and the Ducks.

"I don't know who Keith Lewis is," said Huskies receiver Reggie Williams, echoing what Pickett also said when asked to respond to Lewis' statements.

While Neuheisel has split his two games with Oregon as the Huskies coach, and ended up in the Rose Bowl despite losing 23-16 in 2000, the Ducks have owned the rivalry of late, winning three of the last four meetings and five of the last seven.

Even without playing last year, things didn't go smoothly.

After national signing day last February, Neuheisel accused Bellotti of dirty recruiting and noted that Oregon broadcast an unflattering video of him on its scoreboard that juxtaposed his image with a movie scene of people throwing up.

Bellotti scoffed at the accusations, though Oregon athletic director Bill Moos apologized for the video. A tenuous detente was reached after an intervention by the Pac-10 office, which basically amounted to instructions to both coaches to zip it.

Neuheisel played the diplomat when asked about his feelings on Bellotti, even saying that perhaps one day they can become better friends.

"You have to understand in this business it's difficult to be buddy-buddy with guys because we all want the same thing, to be the best in this conference," Neuheisel said. "We compete like mad on the field and in living rooms, and in competition there can be conflict. But I have a healthy respect for him and his program."

The conflict between the programs has intensified in recent years with a relentless battle of barbs on Internet message boards. An urban legend even circulated that concrete beams used in the renovation of Autzen Stadium made by a company from Washington state included inscriptions of "Go Dawgs" inside them.

Bellotti admitted that there is "no love loss" between the programs, but refuted the notion that Oregon fans are the aggressors in the conflict.

"Probably they are returning what's thrown at them most of the time," he said.

The irony is Moos, a Washington State graduate, and UW athletic director Barbara Hedges get along famously. Moos' daughter, Krista, attends Washington and worked in Hedges office.

"Bill is a wonderful person," Hedges said.

Neuheisel said the Ducks fans are "great," and he downplayed the value of pregame skirmishes among fans or players.

"I know there's going to be a lot said about the game, the rivalry and the feelings that exist between the two programs," he said. "Ultimately, it gets down to two football teams who are going to fight in an honorable way."

Around the Pac-10

Arizona's 37-7 defeat to UCLA means the Wildcats have lost six conference games in a row for the first time in school history. The lone highlight for Arizona was a 92-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Nic Costa to Andrae Thurman, the Pac-10's longest play this season. How bad was it? UCLA faced a third-and-42 in the second quarter and scored a touchdown two plays later. ... Costa, a redshirt freshman who likely will be the starter next year, will see more playing time Saturday at California.

Arizona State
Arizona State wins when it doesn't make mistakes and loses, like most teams, when it does. The Sun Devils had 20 turnovers through the first nine games, in which they were 7-2, but have given away nine in the past two games, both defeats. That's why coach Dirk Koetter isn't completely blaming the defense for the 99 points it surrendered to Washington State and California. "Our defense isn't the issue," he said. "We've got to keep from turning the ball over." ... Injuries are an issue. Tailback Cornell Canidate and strong safety Riccardo Stewart, the Sun Devils leader in tackles per game, won't play Saturday at USC. Stewart likely is done for the season after aggravating a shoulder injury. ... With a 9-9 record in the all-time series, ASU is the only Pac-10 team that doesn't have a losing record against the Trojans.

California scored 24 points off turnovers and scored another touchdown on special teams in its wild 55-38 victory over Arizona State. For the first time in school history, the Bears have beaten three ranked opponents on the road. Now the question is whether Cal can score a victory in its appeal to the NCAA over sanctions that included a bowl ban. A decision is expected this week. This didn't seem like a pressing issue at the beginning of the season considering the Bears were coming off a 1-10 campaign. But at 6-4 overall, Cal already is bowl eligible. The school, which also was placed on five years probation and lost nine scholarships over four years, met with the NCAA appeals committee last Friday. The program was sanctioned for academic fraud, among other violations, when two players received credit in 1999 for classes they didn't take.

Oregon quarterback Jason Fife was a childhood actor, earning a minor part in the 1993 film, "Addams Family Values," as "Camper No. 1." It certainly wasn't nearly as tough as the role he's had to play for the Ducks: The quarterback replacing Joey Harrington. "Jason probably had bigger shoes to fill than anybody in the NCAA," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. Fife's numbers are surprisingly similar to Harrington's. Harrington finished fourth and Fife currently holds the same spot in the Pac-10 with a nearly identical pass efficiency rating. Harrington averaged 230.3 yards passing per game last year with 27 touchdowns and six interceptions. Fife is averaging 239.6 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and six interceptions. The big difference? Harrington was 25-3 as a starter, while Fife has lost three games over the past four weeks. There have even been some muffled grumbles that Fife isn't the master of the fourth quarter like Harrington was. But Fife is his own worst critic. "I am putting more pressure on myself," he said. "At times, I've been unproductive. I know I'm a first-year starter, but I should be doing the job."

Oregon State
To add injury to insult, Oregon State is suddenly hurting at quarterback, and not just because starter Derek Anderson tossed five interceptions against Washington, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Anderson sprained his ankle in the final minute against the Huskies and left the field on a cart. His backup, Adam Rothenfluh, entered the game and promptly sprained his thumb when he slammed it into a defender's helmet. Rothenfluh is definitely out of Saturday's game at Stanford. If Anderson, who is questionable, can't play, then true freshman Anton Clarkson will take over at quarterback. Clarkson has spent the entire season as the scout team quarterback. "We think Derek Anderson will be alright," coach Dennis Erickson said.

Stanford is on track to have the nation's biggest turnarounds this year -- a negative one, that is. The Cardinal went 9-3 last year, but are 2-7 this season and will be underdogs in their final two games against Oregon State and rival California. It remains unclear if quarterback Chris Lewis, who has sat out the past three games with a shoulder injury, will be available this weekend. He saw limited actions in practices last week. The Cardinal could use him. While backup Kyle Matter has labored admirably, Stanford has failed to score more than 18 points in six consecutive games, which hasn't happened since 1962. The Cardinal ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in scoring (21.9 points per game) and 10th in scoring defense (35.1 points per game).

UCLA will use its bye week to get healthy, and the early prognosis is good. Rodney Leisle (broken foot), the Bruins best defensive lineman, receiver Ryan Smith (ankle), safety Jibril Raymo (shoulder) and fullback Manuel White (hamstring) all are expected to be ready to play on Nov. 23 against USC. Coach Bob Toledo also will use the week to get extra practice for his twin freshmen quarterbacks. Drew Olson and Matt Moore both played well in the 37-7 victory over Arizona, and both will play against USC, though Olson remains the starter. "There's really not a big difference between them right now," Toledo said. Neither quarterback has tossed an interception while guiding UCLA to three consecutive victories. ... Another good sign: the defensive had 16 sacks the past three games, even with Leisle on the sidelines. Toledo likely will insert a number of wrinkles and trick plays into the USC game plan, something he's known for. He is 6-0 at UCLA after bye weeks.

While seniors Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu have received much of the attention this season for the resurgent Trojans, a pair of freshmen have played nearly as critical roles. Mike Williams, a 6-foot-5 receiver, leads the team with 58 receptions for 913 yards and likely will become the first Trojan to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving since Keyshawn Johnson in 1995. "From the first day -- after he threw up -- we knew he was pretty darn good," coach Pete Carroll said. While he plays a less flashy position, offensive tackle Winston Justice might even be more impressive than Williams. It's much harder to start as a true freshman on the offensive line, but Justice has been dominating. "No question, he's the perfect offensive tackle," Carroll said. "When the day comes (NFL scouts) are going to be drooling over him."

Washington coach Rick Neuheisel remembers the noise level at Autzen Stadium approximating "a helicopter taking off." The last time the Huskies visited Oregon, Ducks fans banged their "Thundersticks" together and made it nearly impossible to hear anything on the field. Coaches couldn't even hear their counterparts in the press box through earphones. That's why the Huskies are mostly practicing in their indoor facility this week, piping in noise at the highest volumes possible. "We'll see how many times we can blow out the speakers this week," Neuheisel said. He's not joking. On Tuesday, the facility's primary speakers were blown, forcing staff to search for an alternative set. ... One thing Neuheisel believes will be more pleasant during his second trip to Autzen: the field surface. During the Huskies last visit, their lone defeat during the 2000 season, the stadium featured OmniTurf, which could be best described as cheap carpet covered in sand. Now the stadium has FieldTurf, the same surface as Husky Stadium. "That's a huge change for the better," Neuheisel said.

Washington State
Washington State, national title contender? That's something to think about during a bye week after the Cougars moved up to No. 3 in the BCS standings as well as the AP poll, the school's highest ranking in history. "We're kind of in uncharted territory now and it's kind of exciting," coach Mike Price said. That means if Miami or Ohio State slip, the Cougars could find a way into the Fiesta Bowl, though Oklahoma could pass them in the BCS standings with a victory in the Big 12 championship game. Still, this is a mind-boggling proposition for a team that went 9-25 from 1998-2000. WSU is a much better team than it was when it lost at Ohio State, and a big reason why is tailback Jermaine Green, a 5-foot-11, 221-pound transfer from Butler County (Kan.) Community College, who was injured early in the season. He supplied 180 yards rushing in the 32-21 victory over the Ducks

Around the Mountain West
Air Force may have won its sixth consecutive Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with a 49-30 victory over Army, but it was the U.S. attorney general and his nephew who delivered the pep talk and points. John Ashcroft spoke to the Falcons during their Friday team meeting, and his nephew, Air Force kicker Joey Ashcroft, responded by tying a team record with four field goals against Army and was named Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. ... BYU may have finally found a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Matt Berry, the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week, completed 31 of 45 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-31 comeback victory over Wyoming. He also ran for a first down on a critical fourth-and-1 play from the Cowboys' 8-yard line on Cougars' drive for the winning touchdown. ... The Cougars need to win just one of their final two games (New Mexico and Utah) to become the MWC's third bowl eligible team. ... Remember Colorado State, the MWC's only ranked team? The Rams haven't played a November game. "We haven't had this long off before," Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. CSU visits San Diego State on Saturday after a 16-day layoff. The Aztecs upset the homestanding Rams 14-7 last year. In fact, the visiting team has won five of the last six in the series. ... The last time New Mexico beat BYU in Provo was in 1971, when current Lobos coach Rocky Long quarterbacked them to a 14-0 victory. "You'd think by the law of averages we would have lucked into a win in Provo over the last 30 years," Long said. New Mexico has lost 14 straight in Provo, but needs to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible. After BYU, the Lobos visit Colorado State and conclude the season at home against Wyoming. ... San Diego State's 15-8 loss to New Mexico dropped it from contention for a bowl game. Suddenly the offense is struggling, while the defense is playing well. The Aztecs were held without a touchdown for the first time all season, while the defense held New Mexico to 237 total yards, nearly 100 below the Lobos' season average. ... UNLV's game with Utah was a physical, perhaps dirty, affair. Five personal foul penalties were called over a five-minute span in the second half, and the Rebels walked away thinking they'd been jobbed by the officials. "The referees certainly didn't want to call any penalties on (Utah)," UNLV coach John Robinson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. UNLV has lost its last four to the Utes by a combined count of 160-61. The Rebels have better luck against Saturday's opponent, Air Force. UNLV has won two straight over Air Force and outscored the Falcons 68-23 in those contests. The Rebels need to win their final two games to be bowl eligible. ... Utah defensive end Sione Pouha rushed into a burning apartment saved a woman from tragedy last week. "If it had gone on any longer, the lady might have been a goner," coach Ron McBride said. The woman had fallen asleep while cooking a pizza after work, and the resulting smoke filled her apartment and set off a fire alarm, which failed to awaken her in the middle of the night. Pouha rushed into the building and carried the woman to safety -- then invited her to Utah's 28-17 victory over UNLV. ... Wyoming receiver Ryan McGuffey's season has been about like the Cowboys'. Unproductive and riddled by injuries on the field, McGuffey also has struggled off it, pleading no contest to DUI and other traffic charges last week. A preseason first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection, McGuffey isn't even the Pokes leading receiver. He started against BYU and caught one pass for 24 yards -- his 27th game with a reception. He ranks seventh on the school's career receiving list with 1,797 yards.

Ted Miller covers college football for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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