Nov. 3, 2006
SEATTLE -- This game is one of the big ones, said Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham. When the Huskies and the Ducks square off for the 99th time over the course of their respective histories, it will be for more than just bragging rights: the UW will be playing for its postseason dreams. With just three games remaining, a win in Eugene, Ore. tomorrow is almost a necessity.
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The task will be a tall one, as the Ducks boast one of the most potent offenses in the country. Coach Mike Bellotti relies heavily on the spread offense, which puts the ball in the hands of quarterback Dennis Dixon the majority of the time, evident in his passing for 211.8 yards per game.
"He's a weapon just like Isaiah [Stanback]," said defensive backs coach J.D. Williams. "He always wants the ball in crunch time."
Dixon will have a full complement of receivers at his disposal, led by Jaison Williams.
"We've played some big-time receivers," Williams said. "What Oregon brings to the table is not just one receiver, but four or fi ve receivers that are big-time receivers."
That will be a true test for a Husky defense that has played better recently, but still is susceptible to the big play. Most recently, the Huskies gave up a game-winning, 25- yard touchdown pass to Arizona State a week ago. The defense will also have to contend with the likes of Jonathan Stewart, one of the Pac- 10's most physical backs.
"They are a productive and explosive offense," Willingham said. "We have to slow their offense down. And when we have the ball, we have to execute and get points."
Offensively, the Huskies will be going with Bonnell at quarterback. Despite his struggles against the Sun Devils, when he threw for just 67 yards and two interceptions, Willingham feels that Bonnell gives his team the best chance to succeed.
Washington also will have the services of senior Kenny James, who missed the game against ASU due to an ankle injury.
This week in practice, James looked healthy and ran the offense well, said Willingham. He will give the team his ability to pick up short yardage, a dimension of the running game that was lacking for most of the California game and the entire Arizona State game.
In the end, the ability to move the ball against Oregon will determine the Huskies' success in a hostile environment.
"We need to go down there and win a football game," wide receiver Sonny Shackelford said. "Rivalries are just rivalries; we have to go down and play regardless of the circumstances."