A common, almost expected theme this week – as it is every time this high-charged Interstate-5 rivalry comes into view on the calendar – is trying to define, or at least get a feel for what makes the Huskies-Ducks rivalry so atypical.
We got our usual access to the coaches on the Pacific-10 Conference football teleconference today. Not surprisingly, the first person consulted on the topic wasn’t UW coach Steve Sarkisian, or Oregon coach Chip Kelly – both relative newcomers to it as first-year head coaches.
It was Rick Neuheisel – the coach both schools love to hate.
“There’s no love lost (in it), that’s the way to say it – for the fans more so than the respective teams,” Neuheisel said. “The teams have respect for one another … but the fans, there’s some raw animosity.
“It’s an open wound, I’ll tell you that.”
Thought that stuff was reserved for intra-state – or cross-town – rivals in the same conference. Not here.
“I actually view it a little bit differently. I view it along the lines of (USC)-Notre Dame rivalry. It’s a little different to where it’s not crosstown, but it’s very heated, a lot of emotions involved,” Sarkisian said. “And it’s one that the fans are very involved in. It’s not just about the football programs but it’s an overall university-wide rivalry, which is great. That’s why college football is great. That’s what makes it fun.”
Neuheisel’s theory of where it evolved goes back to the dominant days of the Huskies under coach Don James, especially in the late 1980s and, of course, the national title in the 1991-92 season.
Oregon clearly closed the gap under former coach Mike Bellotti, and lately, has passed the Huskies on the conference’s pecking order.
“A lot of the people who’ve worked at the university for a long time have been very eager to fill me in on the rivalry of the two schools,” Kelly said.
Stuff from practice Tuesday:
• Receiver James Johnson, the recipient of a flagrant elbow Saturday from talented but combustible true freshman linebacker Vontaze Burfict, talked about the incident for the first time Tuesday.
As the receiver explained about the second after Chris Polk’s touchdown run in the second half, “I didn’t say anything to him. I was just walking, and he threw an elbow.
“He’s going to be a good player, but he’s got a temper on him. He plays with a lot of confidence. He does a lot of things that can put his team in bad situations. He hit me with an elbow in his face, and I didn’t say anything to him. He just put one up there.”
Dennis Erickson, Burfict’s coach, was asked about the player’s antics, which included three personal-foul penalties. And the ASU coach didn’t seem all that apologetic about any of it.
“A lot of things involved in that – emotion of the ball game,” Erickson said. “He’ll have it under control, but I’ll take his energy any day of the week.”
• Quick hits: Again, UW defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (neck stinger) was out of practice. Everrette Thompson continued to receive the snaps with the No. 1 defense in his place. … Receiver Anthony Boyles and running back Curtis Shaw were excused from practice with flu-like symptoms.