The Avezzano Cup: P10/12 Worst Of All Time, Round 1 Game 3: 2004 Washington vs 1996 OSU


Onward and downward we go. The third matchup of Round 1 of the Avezzano Cup features two highly worthy candidates for Worst Pac-10/12 Team Of All Time (Where "All Time" Is Defined As Since 1996): the Resistable Force of Jerry Pettibone’s last Oregon State team, from 1996, meets the Movable Object of Keith Gilbertson’s 2004 Washington Huskies. On paper, this looks like the kind of game television executives would be working frantically with their legal experts to avoid putting on the air. But since we’re at no risk of losing sponsors, having none (and seriously, I’d never buy a product from a company that would have me as a spokesman), we can play out this turkey thanks to the miracle of WhatIfSports technology. Readers new to the Avezzano Cup can get the rules here. And we welcome guest commenters from SBN blogs. Some of you surely remember suffering through these campaigns. Tell us what it’s like to finish in last place! We’ve forgotten!

#3: 2004 Washington (1-10 / 0-8)

PTS/G: 14.0 (120th of 120) ▪ Opp PTS/G: 30.4 (84th of 120)
SRS: -6.27 (83rd of 120) ▪ SOS: 8.21 (6th of 120)

The 2004 season had to be devastating to the average Husky fan. After all, UW had not won fewer than six games in a season since 1975, and had not gone winless in a conference season since 1929. UW fan had developed a finely honed sense of entitlement, interpreted by some – OK, by just about everyone outside Seattle – as abject arrogance.


Few observers saw the trainwreck of Washington's 2004 season coming, even those not wearing purple and gold. In 2003, the season after a previous coach had been forced to resign in disgrace for being kind of a dick in general for years and having it finally catch up with him, UW hired Cal castoff Keith Gilbertson. The '03 dawgs went 6-6, 4-4 in conference, "won" the mythical "Northwest Championship" again, and had become every Husky fan’s nightmare: an average college football team. But there were warning signs – a home loss to Nevada, a 54-7 pasting at Berkeley in which a very average Cal offense gained over 700 yards, combined with the necessity of winning the Apple Cup to secure a non-losing season. Something was seriously amiss in Montlake. The team was being out-recruited by Wazzu. That just didn't happen.

"Where are the All-Americans? And, for that matter, where are the All-Pac-10 players? Where are the national rankings? The flirtations with the Top 10? What happened to the annual parade into postseason?"
-- Steve Kelley, Seattle Times 5 Sept 2004

Not everybody was this pessimistic. Former star QB Sonny Sixkiller looked at the team during practice and hallucinated a 7-4 season. Bloggers were even suggesting a Rose Bowl run was possible, "if the offensive line stays healthy and if the defense can stop the run." The media was more realistic, pegging UW to finish 7th in its annual preseason poll.

The fans, however, can’t be fooled. The Huskies didn’t sell out their season opener, for the first time since nobody could remember when; they lost to Fresno State, 35-16, and things never got much better from there, with only a win over San Jose State keeping the team off the O-fer. Because of karma, or poor conditioning, or just a run of bad luck, UW was decimated with injuries; 12 of the 22 starters against FSU didn’t make it to Pullman, including both WRs, the FB and TE. Washington was hammered by the good teams on its schedule and beaten soundly by the average teams.

By the time they lost to Oregon, 31-6 and it wasn’t that close, Gilby and UW had had enough of each other; the coach would step down at season’s end. Thus inspired, UW ran the table, with a 28-25 loss in the Apple Cup putting the nail in the coffin of their first winless conference slate in the modern era, and the first losing season in Montlake in 27 years.

UW finished 2004 dead last in NCAA D-1 scoring, at 14.0 points per game. Casey Paus, once dubbed The Next Great Husky QB, completed 42.3% of his passes, threw 17 INTs vs 5 TDs, and spent a great deal of time being chased around his own backfield.

Fortunately, UW would fix everything with their next football coach.

#14: 1996 Oregon State (2-9 / 1-7)

Description: PTS/G: 19.6 (84th of 111) ▪ Opp PTS/G: 35.3 (99th of 111)
SRS: -12.04 (95th of 111) ▪ SOS: 1.70 (64th of 111)

Once upon a time, there was a team from a small rural Oregon town that endured 27 28 consecutive losing football seasons. The penultimate campaign of that streak, the 1996 Beavers of Jerry Pettibone, gave little indication that anything was going to change any time soon.

OSU came into 1996 on a ten game losing streak. Over the years the football program had tried every approach in the book in an effort to squeeze blood out of 85 scholarship turnips, from the negligee orange of Craig Fertig to the bombs-away attack of Dave Kragthorpe to Pettibone’s two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-fescue approach. In ’96 they had a talented option QB in Tim Alexander, and Pettibone altered his offensive approach accordingly. Shifting from the ground attack that saw OSU leading the conference in rushing for four seasons – while averaging barely 500 yards passing per season -- they would no longer run the wishbone exclusively; Alexander would helm an I-formation option attack that would give him more opportunities to throw the ball. Unfortunately, he had no reliable targets for those passes, and the line had the consistency and strength of Cheese-Wiz.

Six years earlier, Kragthorpe’s last team had kicked off its season by losing at home to Montana, 22-15, sealing the coach’s fate. That team finished 1-10 and soon after the 1990 Civil War, Pettibone was hired. The Beavers’ first game of 1996 was against Montana, the defending 1-AA champions, and if you’ve read this far you can probably guess that the Griz were just as compliant a cupcake as most of the other non-conference opponents in that dismal era in Corvallis. The Beavs lost, 35-14, and things never got much better; they did manage to win twice, one a shocking upset over a Stanford team that later won the Sun Bowl, the other a 67-28 laugher over Northern Illinois, a team in the middle of a 24 game losing streak. They had passed for 650 yards, five TDs and nine INTs. The other nine teams in the conference were happy to let OSU lead them in team rushing; it seemed a fair tradeoff.

Pettibone "retired from coaching" after losing 49-13 to Oregon, and this play is a representative sample of how the season went for the Beavs..

Soon after, Mike Riley was hired off USC’s staff, and in retrospect this was a pretty good hire, especially compared to Gilbertson’s replacement at UW.


BENZDUCK’S LINE: ’96 OSU -3 Many of Pettibone’s recruits made up the core of the ’99 team that finally broke the 27 year drought. On the other hand, many of Gilbertson’s recruits weren’t very good.


FINAL SCORE: 2004 Washington 20, 1996 OSU 16 (new feature: click through for the full results!)

Final - 8/6/2012






2004 Washington Huskies






1996 Oregon State Beavers






In the expected snoozefest, Washington 2004 pulled off the mild upset, overcoming three turnovers and poor passing from Casey Paus to prevail when Kenny James punched it in from two yards out with 5:59 left in the 4th quarter. OSU’s dismal offense remained so, with Alexander just 2-11 passing for 21 yards and an interception, making it easy for UW to load up the box defensively and key on RBs Akili King and DeShawn Williams.

The teams combined for 16 punts.

OSU thus moves on, to meet the loser of an internecine battle between two historic Wazzu squads. Which team will do a better job of Coug'n it? Or worse? The mind boggles.


This Week’s Caption Contest:


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or the Addicted To Quack Moderators. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable Oregon fans.

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