Not even the Cougars elicit as much loathing among Washington fans as the Ducks. Nor can Seahawks fans know more dread than the prospect of four losses in the season’s first six games, which is a reasonable prospect Sunday against 4-0 Carolina.
Each of Seattle’s 70,000-seat football playpens will be filled to the roof decks with anxiety. If things go poorly, CEOs at the major businesses Monday would be wise to close door for a company-wide sick day. If they go well, Gov. Jay Inslee will be compelled Monday to declare a state holiday.
If there’s a split, everybody goes to work Monday talking about something appealing and something appalling.
The Seahawks and Huskies have home football games on the same weekend two or three times a year. More rare is having each game so rich in significance.
Both enterprises aspire to the same thing: A turning point to revival.
Burdened by three years of top-end success, the Seahawks are desperate to find the edgy relentlessness they could draw upon when they were shunned, overlooked and undrafted.
Burdened by 15 years of tumult, the Huskies are desperate to validate a road win over USC with a triumph over the Ducks for a return to championship relevance.
Of the two, the Seahawks are more desperate. But only if you think 11 consecutive losses to the same loathsome opponent, the University of Nike at Oregon, isn’t such a much at Montlake, especially when the 3-3 Ducks are considered vulnerable for the first time since smartphones were science fiction.
Coach Chris Petersen is spending the week shepherding his youngsters away from the harrowing fact that Washington is a two-point favorite.
“If our team for one second thinks this is like a different Oregon program,” he said, “I know what’ll happen, and it won’t be good.”
The Seahawks, meanwhile, are still trying to figure out how they blew a 24-7 fourth-quarter in Cincinnati Sunday when they cast themselves for so long as kings of the big moments.
Thursday, FS Earl Thomas volunteered that he played timid, a question no one thought — or dared — to ask of one of the Seahawks’ more ferocious desperadoes.
“I didn’t give (myself) a chance because I was playing a little timid, because I wasn’t fully prepared,” he said. “I feel like when you’re prepared you’re fully confident. You can challenge everything. You’re your best and you really trust what you’re doing out there.”
Asked how he could tell the he and his teammates weren’t ready, he said, “I think the most important thing was just body language. We weren’t really relentless like we’ve been in the past. We weren’t fighting for everything. We weren’t really just giving it everything that we have, in my eye.”
The Seahawks are searching for the emotional energy that carried them to two Super Bowls, but has faded because some key players have been validated by giant contracts and are no longer as driven. They would never admit to such a thing, because that would suggest they are ordinary folk.
And they must deal with the additional distraction of the arrest of starting FB Derrick Coleman after a two-car accident Wednesday that left the other driver injured.
Nevertheless, the Seahawks have beaten the Panthers three consecutive seasons in Carolina, and a fourth in January at the Clink. The 31-17 win in the playoffs was the last time the Seahawks trounced a quality team from end to end.
The question is whether the confidence the Seahawks take from the four-game winning streak is worth more than the bitterness it supplies the Panthers.
The same question can be posed to the Huskies (3-2) regarding the Ducks, over 11 games. Since no college player has experienced more than four of those defeats, bitterness runs only so deep. Besides, Petersen is not drinking from that well.
“All that – we weren’t here,” the second-year Washington coach told reporters Thursday. “It’s really about the here and now.”
The here and now is that the Ducks defense is giving up 38.7 points a game, 115th of 127 big-boy schools, and 475 yards (112th). If the Huskies can’t exploit that, they may as well lower the the seasonal peak to the Apple Cup.
Also part of the here and now is that following a victory over USC with one over Oregon would validate the optimism that surrounded Petersen’s arrival from Boise State, where he was 92-12. The wins also would open the recruiting highway to Montlake for prep stars previously oblivious to Montlake. Imagine: Seattle as the new Boise.
The big difference this weekend in Seattle’s two pro football games (please, no emails: the Huskies are getting paid over the table now) is that the Seahawks are desperate to maintain excellence, a much harder feat than getting there.
And should the Huskies win, their fans will have the additional thrill of mocking, deriding and disparaging their yellow-clad counterparts. Eleven years is a long time to hold a cringe.