BROCK AND SALK

UW Huskies’ DeBoer: Oregon has been ‘causing people nightmares’

Nov 29, 2023, 12:05 PM

One of the biggest games in the history of the UW Huskies football program is just days away.

Rost: Could both UW Huskies and Oregon make College Football Playoff?

Washington plays in the Pac-12 Championship at 5 p.m. Friday night in Las Vegas, and it’s against rival Oregon. The winner will almost certainly be heading to the College Football Playoff.

The No. 3 Huskies ran the table in the regular season, becoming the first team in the Pac-12 era (2011) to go undefeated in conference play. Oregon, ranked No. 5 in the latest CFP rankings, is 11-1 with that lone loss coming in Seattle in October to UW.

Since that epic game, which the Huskies won 36-33, the Ducks have steamrolled basically every team in sight, winning each contest by at least two scores and only one taking one game by fewer than 10 points (36-27 over USC).

The Huskies have been able to go undefeated, but their games have been much closer since they last faced the Ducks, with four of their last six wins coming by one possession, including last week’s 24-21 win over WSU in the Apple Cup.

The man leading Washington is head coach Kalen DeBoer, who joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk Wednesday morning ahead of another big clash with Oregon.

DeBoer shared what he’s seen from coach Dan Lanning’s Oregon team over the Ducks’ last six games since falling at Washington.

“I think just like as you go through the season, you continue to improve. And obviously they had their backs to the wall after that game as far as what they wanted their goals to be, so that provides another level of urgency and focus,” he said. “And you can see that happening just through their play on the football field each and every Saturday. Coach Lanning has done an awesome job just keeping them heading in the right direction since then. It’s just a really solid all-around team, for sure. They’re causing people nightmares, and we know we’ll have our hands full, just like it was the first time we played.”

Statistically, Oregon is one of the better all-around teams in the country, ranking second in scoring offense and 15th in scoring defense in the entire FBS.

“They can play physical, they can throw it up over the top, they’ve got a lot of big threats, they tackle well on defense, they’re forcing turnovers,” DeBoer said of Oregon. “So just a really well-rounded football team. Obviously they’re in the top five in the country for a reason.”

Playing for the Pac-12 championship is a big deal, and it’s a big part of why the Huskies surprisingly had so many key players opt to return to school after going 11-2 last season.

“The conference championship, we had a lot of guys who could have gone on to the next part of their career and they chose to do it and stay here,” DeBoer said. “And for the program, I mean, it’s what we expect. It’s why you do come back and why you do come here is to be in moments like this.”

So how much is at stake for the Huskies this Friday? DeBoer doesn’t view it that way.

“You embrace the challenge, that’s the way we look at it,” he said. “It’s not ‘what’s at stake’ because it sounds like whoa, you should be nervous or something. We’re embracing the opportunity, embracing the great challenge that playing for a conference championship provides, that playing Oregon, another great team, provides. This is why you came here, this is what you came to do.

“And we understand the ramifications about winning and continuing to move on and reaching more of our goals, but we can’t worry about those down the road. All we can do is worry about today’s practice and making it great and having fun and bringing energy, and we’ll continue to improve our execution and we’ll do it again tomorrow. And then Friday will sooner or later come and we’ll be prepared to go out there and play with confidence and get a dub.”

The ESPN Radio broadcast of the Pac-12 Championship between the UW Huskies and Oregon Ducks will air live on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app at 5 p.m. Friday.

Under-Dawgs?

Despite being 12-0 to Oregon’s 11-1 and owning a head-to-head win over the Ducks, the Huskies enter as heavy underdogs in the conference championship game.

Is that something Washington can use as a motivating tool? DeBoer has already done that once this season.

“Yeah, I did a couple weeks ago against Oregon State,” DeBoer said. ” … And I think you can do that when you have a team that has enough belief in themselves where you can kind of play the ‘us versus the world’ type thing, or the underestimated or undervalued type of way. Our team is is definitely not an arrogant team, but we’re confident. We play with a swagger, and it’s because we’ve got guys that have been through a lot of experiences together. We communicate the good, bad, the ugly after games, before games. We can be real with each other.”

DeBoer said the Huskies “don’t feel it as a threat” when you tell them they’re underdogs in a game.

“They understand they’ve got to play a good football game, but both teams do. Both teams do because it’s two really good football teams playing,” he said. “Every team that is playing in a conference championship and wanting to move on to the next round when it comes to the College Football Playoff, they’re all going to be good. So you’ve got to be at your best, and this is when it matters the most.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with UW Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer at this link or in either the audio or video player near the top of this story.

More on the UW Huskies

CFP Rankings: Not only do UW Huskies rise, but so does Oregon
Penix, No. 3 UW Huskies need offense clicking vs No. 5 Oregon
Huard: Why are No. 3 UW Huskies underdogs vs No. 5 Oregon?

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UW Huskies’ DeBoer: Oregon has been ‘causing people nightmares’