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In "DEFENSE" of the Pac-10
Throwing the hook into Oregon
3 January 2010

The eastern mafia will be all over the Pac-10's case for its 2-5 record in the 2009/10 bowl season. However, over the last two years, the conference has gone 7-5 in bowl games, winning all five of them last year.

In the conference's only bowl victories this season, both USC and UCLA beat their opponents -- Boston College and Temple, respectively -- by fielding the better defense. USC held BC to 312 total yards, and UCLA held Temple to 282 yards, stifling its passing game in the second half while scoring off a pick 6. The Bruins held Temple to 41 yards in the second half.

Key defensive players in those victories were DE Everson Griffen of USC and DT Brian Price of UCLA. I expect both of them, juniors, to be first-round selections in this year's NFL draft.

Griffen played a huge role -- which was overlooked by the media -- in USC's 18-15 victory over Ohio State at Columbus. His sack of Terrelle Prior was key to victory; it occurred on the Buckeyes' drive preceding USC's game-winning, 86-yard drive that drained 6:10 off the clock in the fourth quarter. With a 15-11 lead, all Ohio State needed was a field goal to ensure, most likely, an overtime game in its penultimate drive that started on the USC 45-yard line; a touchdown would have won it. From the 45, OSU managed just one first down, which took the ball to the 'SC 35. On a third and seven on the 32, Griffen sacked Prior for four yards, forcing Ohio State to punt the ball away and eschew a 53-yard field goal attempt.

On OSU's last drive of the game, with 1:05 left on the clock and ahead 18-15, USC sacked Prior for an 18-yard loss which took the ball back to the Buckeyes' 18, effectively ending the game.  

The UCLA defense kept it competitive in close games with Tennessee and Washington, both of them wins for the Bruins.

To go to a bowl game in the 2010/11 season, Washington will need to plug up its porous defense even more. Is there no rest for Nick Holt? No.

The Eastern Mafia?

Now the following is for you easterners; before reading it, imagine that black helicopters are flying overhead with the theme-song from "Twilight Zone" playing in the background, for here we go again.

Modern-day examples of this bias include:

  • the "Lew Alcindor rule;"
  • calling the BCS title game a "national-championship" game in the absence of a playoff system;
  • the voting down of USC in the polls after it lost an early game to Oregon State in 2008 because of an alleged weakness in the Pac-10;
  • the voting in the 2009 Heisman Trophy race;
  • failing to give the Pac-10 credit for its round-robin scheduling (strength of schedule);
  • the uneven handling of NCAA bylaw infractions, a double standard. Why is a tainted Alabama program fielding a team in the BCS title game?
  • limiting the Pac-10 to just one BCS bowl game over the last seven years, which is an artifact of what could be poorly-thought-out computer algorithms that, as I understand, are mostly precluded from outside inspection;
  • the assumption, A priori, that the SEC is college football's strongest conference. And the beat goes on.
  • In the 2010 basketball season, no Pac-10 team was ranked in the top 25. Yet, Washington made the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness.

Oregon's Rose Bowl Record

It's been 93 years since Oregon won a Rose Bowl game, the Ducks beating Pennsylvania 14-0 in 1917. In 1916, both Oregon and Washington tied for the championship of the old Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), but Oregon went to the Rose Bowl because of traveling cost considerations; reportedly, it was $215 cheaper to get to Los Angeles from Eugene by train than it was from Seattle.

Washington and Oregon battled to a 0-0 tie in their 1916 encounter, both of them finishing 3-0-1 in the PCC.

Describing that game, a reporter in the Oakland Tribune wrote, "Eight years without a rival worthy of his metal Gil Dobie, pessimistic czar of Washington's football forces, found his match today when the team of the University of Oregon held his charges to a scoreless tie on a field (in Eugene) that resembled a lake. Oregon covered herself with glory and mud, and her students tonight are celebrating a victory in Portland and lauding the heroes who held Dobie's eight-year champions to an even break and foretold his fall as undisputed czar of football in the Northwest...the field was so slippery that open attacks were useless, and both sides got down to a working basis of old-fashioned line plunging."

From the history book

Following Gil Dobie's 72-0 rout of California in 1915, the Oakland Tribune ran this headline in its November 7th edition, "Golden Bear crushed beyond recognition by Dobie's Washington Indians." A photo of Washington QB Allan Young scoring the second touchdown of the game sat under the headline. The paper noted that "Lockhart, the Bears left tackle, was the heaviest man on the field. He weighed 198. His 6-foot-3 inches also made him the tallest...The lightest Washington man was (Elmer) Leader, the left tackle, who weighed 165."

The paper noted that Dobie brought 22 men with him and that each regular had a substitute; it went on to say that Dobie was noted for his eleventh hour changes in his lineup and that fans expected a change any minute. Also, according to the Tribune, the numbering of players was distributed before the game, with the number 13 being avoided. The two captains, Canfield and Mike Hunt, UW's left end, were each given number one.

"He (Dobie) has seen so many heroes fail and unheard of players rise to great heights, that he considers the 'good boy pat on the back stuff' useless," the paper continued.

"Overconfidence has lost more battles than superior opposition," Dobie used to say. In each game, Dobie kept his team worrying about its Mojo, even though he knew he had the superior force.

At halftime a Washington stunt group produced a halftime burlesque pantomime in which the California Bear and the "Washington Indian" were the principle actors, the paper went on to say.

The Washington "Hook," a 10-foot by 3-foot wooden replica of a hook, made its appearance in the Washington rooting section. It seems the hook was captured by Washington rooters -- a few years back -- in a game played between UW and Oregon in Eugene, the Oregon fans saying they would throw the "hook" into Washington. After UW beat Oregon, UW fans paraded the hook in downtown Eugene.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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