Much has been written hereabouts concerning the spectacular, nine-plus minute clock-killing drive at Memorial Stadium last weekend. Some have even proclaimed it the greatest drive ever.
Considering the stakes involved, it certainly was monumental. And, at many institutions, it would absolutely stand alone above most possessions during any season.
But in my opinion -- even if icing that victory leads to much bigger and better things -- The Nine:Twenty Icing doesn't hold a candle to The Drive in Duck history.
Because nobody realized at the time how monumentally important The Drive was.
It was The Drive That Ended The Suffering.
A journey into the benzduck wayback machine, after the jump.
** The Situation **
It's the middle of the 4th quarter. Washington has just scored, converting an interception to take a 24-20 lead. Oregon DE Troy Bailey is called for a personal foul for throwing a punch at a UW player.
After the penalty is marked off, the Huskies kick off from mid-field. Freshman Patrick Johnson receives the pooch kick at the 2 yard line.. and stumbles; his knee hits the ground; the play is dead.
Oregon has 98 yards to go, led by a senior quarterback who has never -- in 4 years of starting play -- led his team to a come-from-behind victory. Danny O'Neil is running out of chances. And he's up against the #9 team, with one of the country's top defensive units. A team that a month earlier had ended Miami's ten year home win streak.
There is 7:40 left in The Suffering.
** The Setup **
Oregon was 4-3 the week of the 1994 UW game, and grumpy supporters have, as usual, been calling for the head of Rich Brooks. Losing two games against WAC opponents (at Hawaii, and at home to Utah) will do that to your base. But three of those wins were impressive; first a 40-16 throttling of Iowa at home, then a win at USC behind a backup QB who had never started a game, and another home win over Cal. So, Oregon was 2-1 in conference play. By late October, no dominant team had emerged, and optimistic Duck fans had begun to approach their usual level of delusion.
The highest ranked team in the Pac10 the week of October 22 was Washington, at #9 AP. At 5-1, the only loss to USC on the road in the first game, and having earlier stopped Miami's 12-year home winning streak, the Huskies looked as good as any team in the country behind Heisman candidate Napoleon Kaufman and QB Damon Huard.
"You can't stop Napoleon Kaufman," Oregon Coach Rich Brooks said of the UW feature back, who was averaging over 160 yards per game. "You hope you can stop him from making long runs. You can't concentrate on him too much. Washington's got too much offense.
"Right now they're playing better than anyone in the league. They have the most balanced offense I've seen. Our offense is not firing on all cylinders." This was Brooks just being honest. The offense wasn't exactly lighting it up, averaging about 316 yards per game. And they hadn't been scoring a lot of points. The Iowa game, a 40-16 win, was a bit of a fluke as Oregon took advantage of great fied position in Hawkeye territory and got TDs on drives of 23, 44, 11 and 37 yards to overcome being outgained 421-279.
In this game, Oregon had a little momentum, but UW came in with MOmentum in the form of a five-game win streak, and its usual chip-on-shoulder attitude. Probation had given them a bit of an us-against-the world mentality.
And the typically nasty rivalry threatened to go beyond the usual namecalling and ritual throwing of alleged dog biscuits, or poop, depending on who was asked. The day before the game, three former Husky athletes -- Jason Shelley and Prentiss Perkins from the football team, and Charles Douglas Barnes representing hoops -- were convicted of sexually abusing two Oregon women in a dormitory the previous October; they received 120-day jail terms and two years probation. Although both Perkins and SHelley had long been kicked off the Huskies for other offenses, the incident just served to pour gasoline on the grease fire that represented the mutual respect between the teams and their fan bases.
No member of that 1994 UW team had ever lost to Oregon.. not even the redshirts. In the last three meetings, the Ducks had managed a total of 16 points; in 1990, at least, they'd managed 17, and still lost by three TDs.
UW fans continued to push the idea that this really wasn't a rivalry at all; their "true rivals" were WSU, of course, and USC. (USC fans of the time were more likely to specify UCLA and Notre Dame as *their* rivals, a fact lost upon UW fans.) This denial of rivalry status was, of course, perceived as the ultimate insult and lack of respect by Oregon fans.
On paper, this wasn't a contest. The Huskies were favored by two touchdowns.
And yet, a banner was unfurled in the stands. "I looked up and saw, 'The Ducks are Pasadena Bound,'" said Oregon wideout Dameron Ricketts. "I thought, 'that's nice, but that's never really going to happen.'" Those daffy, delusional Duck fans.
** The Game **
Oregon held the lead from early in the 2nd quarter, when Dino Philyaw scored from 8 yards out after Ricky Whittle's 86-yard kickoff return to make it 7-3, all the way until midway through the 4th quarter. An errant pass by O'Neil had bounced off fullback Dwayne Jones, into the arms of UW corner Reggie Reser at the Oregon 20. When fullback Richard Thomas bulled over three plays later, from 10 yards out, the solid UW contingent in the east end zone erupted. The band played Tequila. The fans pointed and laughed at the cute little team in green who was now losing to the mighty Huskies.
UW led 20-17.
Then, Bailey lost his head.
Then, PJ made a freshman mistake on the kickoff. Right in front of the same UW fans.
O'Neil hadn't had a good game. At this point, he was 6-of-16, for just 55 yards. And he'd just thrown that pick.
And now, he was losing. Again.
The Oregon crowd wasn't brimming with optimism; they'd seen their team lead for most of the game, seen a spectacular defensive effort that had held Kaufman in check and only allowed two drives over 60 yards, but the big bad Huskies had finally taken control. The best they could hope for was a chance for Matt Belden to get a decent punt out of the end zone, and hope that somehow UW wouldn't just start handing the ball to Kaufman and let him ice the game.
Thus did Danny O'Neil, the guy who had never led a game-winning drive, whose team had lost 5 straight to the Huskies, who had just created the turnover that put his team behind, take the field with his offense, right in front of the makeshift Dawg Pound.
98 yards to the end zone, for a team that had only gained 104 in the entire game.
** The Drive **
The Drive (Pt. 1 - Washington @ Oregon 1994) (via keeerrrttt1)
Ten plays. 98 yards. 4 minutes 30 seconds.
Dwayne Jones is redeemed, for the pass that deflected off his pads into the arms of Reser.
Danny O'Neil is redeemed, after going 4-for-4 on the game-winning drive for 68 yards and getting that critical first down on a gutsy run. He finally gets his go-ahead fourth-quarter drive.
Oregon has the lead, 24-17.
2:40 remains in The Suffering. Now, it's up to the defense.
We don't know yet if The Nine:Twenty will rise to equivalent status in Duck lore. But we do know that with that last drive, The Suffering ended.
Because The Pick could not have happened without The Drive.