For the past four seasons, every year it was the same old scene. The final seconds would tick off the clock of the annual Oregon annihilation of Washington. Fans would yawn and gather their belongings, barely able to remember the last time Washington had beaten Oregon. And down on the turf, Washington's Steve Sarkisian and Oregon's Chip Kelly would converge at midfield with beaming smiles and give each other a warm hug. Really, given the context of the moment, it was an odd thing to watch.
If Alabama's Nick Saban lost to Florida's Urban Meyer, would the two men glom onto each other with beaming smiles? No, Saban would look like he wanted to strangle somebody.
It's fine that Kelly and Sark were and remain fond of each other, of course. But from Washington's standpoint, it again raises questions of the kind of messages Sark is sending to his players.
The current Huskies seem only vaguely aware that Washington used to dominate this series. These days, the Dawgs get destroyed by the Ducks every year and the implied message is basically "gosh golly darn it, let's have a great week of practice next week and get 'em next time."
But with Chip Kelly departing for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon has turned to highly-regarded assistant Mark Helfrich to lead the way.
And Helrich took a surprising shot at Sarkisian and Washington this past week, which indicated he has no plans of giving the Husky coach a post-game pucker and smooch anytime soon.
In an interview with USA Today's George Schroeder, Helfrich was asked about the benefits of taking over a juggernaut like the Ducks.
"You could take a job where they were 0-12 last year and if you come in and win six, they build a statue," Helfrich said. It was an obvious reference to Sarkisian taking over the Huskies after the team went 0-12 in 2008, and the fans' subsequent reverence for his four years of mediocrity.
So, can we now get back to being a rivalry? Can we get back to Husky defenders leveling devastating shots on Oregon quarterbacks? Can we get back to the Ducks scoring late to pull out a thriller over the Dawgs? Can we get back to heated exchanges that cause officials to intervene and throw flags for unsportsmanlike conduct? Can we get back to Husky and Duck fans getting into long thread battles on message boards that invariably end with references to Nazis and Hitler? Can we get back to tough games that come down to the final minutes? Can we get back to the days where Oregon actual had the Washington game circled on their calendar, awaiting it eagerly for months?
Of course, this is all solely up to the Huskies. Oregon has already done their part; they're the kings of the couch. It's up to Washington to give them reason to worry and knock them off.
In my opinion, this can only occur with a coaching change at Washington.
But anything's possible. And for Sarkisian to eventually pull his program even with the Ducks, the 1,000 mile journey begins first by viewing Oregon again as the hated enemy. To resuscitate this rivalry, the Huskies need to raise the ante. Who knows. Given Sark's hunger for respect, maybe the Helfrich shot across the bow has done him and Washington a favor.