Sept. 29, 1999
SEATTLE (AP) - The Huskies hope new head coach Rick Neuheisel will help them turn the tide against the Oregon Ducks when the teams face each other in a Pac-10 matchup in Washington on Saturday.
Washington (1-2) is 1-4 against No. 25 Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-10) over the past five years, but Neuheisel has a 2-0 lifetime record against Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti.
In four seasons at Colorado, Neuheisel faced Bellotti's Ducks twice in bowl games. Colorado defeated Oregon 38-6 in the 1997 Cotton Bowl and 51-43 in Honolulu's Aloha Bowl last Christmas.
"It's important that our players get ready," Neuheisel said. "Certainly, they already have a healthy respect for Oregon given the state of events during the last five years."
The Ducks defeated USC, which was ranked 16th at the time, in triple overtime, vaulting them into the Top 25 in an emotional victory last Saturday.
Ducks junior quarterback A.J. Feeley was tremendous, completing 23-of-39 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
Feeley has been an admirable replacement for Akili Smith - the third overall pick in April's NFL draft - tossing 10 touchdowns and just one interception on the season.
Tony Hartley has been the biggest beneficiary of Feeley's impressive play. The senior wide receiver caught seven passes for 116 yards in Oregon's win over USC, and has 14 receptions for 254 yards on the year.
A large part of Feeley's success, though, has been his ability to spread the ball around. Five Oregon receivers have gained over 100 yards, and all have touchdown receptions.
The Huskies are coming off a 31-14 win over Colorado last Saturday to earn their first victory of the season and Neuheisel's first win as Washington's head coach, but the game was costly.
The Huskies will most likely be going into this weekend's game without their top tailback, Braxton Cleman, who injured his hip in the first quarter against Colorado. Even though X-rays were negative, Neuheisel listed him as questionable for the Oregon game. The sophomore is Washington's leading rusher with 130 yards on 17 carries this season.
Washington safety Hakim Akbar was named defensive Pac-10 player of the week on Monday for his play against Colorado. Akbar had 10 tackles - four unassisted - in Washington's victory.