Ducks and decibels

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, September 28, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

On its first attempted play from scrimmage Saturday, UCLA was flagged for a false start.

The Bruins would have five more false-start penalties called on their offensive line for moving before quarterback Ryan McCann’s signal. At one point, UCLA had three false starts in a row.

The culprit: The crowd at Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon. Even with a mere 42,000-seat capacity, Autzen’s roar blisters eardrums and turns finely tuned game plans to sawdust.

“It’s the loudest place I’ve ever played,” said Rock Nelson, tackle for the sixth-ranked Washington Huskies, who make the trek to green and gold hell in Eugene to play the 20th-ranked Ducks Saturday.

Already rowdy, some of the fans have taken their enthusiasm to new, ugly heights. Following the Ducks’ 29-10 victory over UCLA Saturday, a number of fans taunted Bruin players Brian Poli-Dixon and Freddie Mitchell into a near-brawl as they walked to the visitors’ lockerroom.

The melee prompted UO officials to beef up security around the stadium for this week’s game.

Which leads to the question: With all the hubbub, how can the Huskies expect to win?

Forget the post-game shenanigans. Autzen will be thundering, especially against Washington, which Oregon fans place on the same plane as the first prehistoric, amphibious organism that crawled out of the slime.

They were loud against UCLA. They’ll be louder Saturday.

“If you’re not prepared for that and you’re surprised by it, it certainly can have an effect,” UW coach Rick Neuheisel said. “I think we are clearly aware of what kind of home crowd Oregon has. We played a game in a similar situation.”

That would be Colorado two weeks ago, in which Buffalo fans took out their hostility on Neuheisel, who, so the sentiment goes, left the program in shambles as he was money-whipped into taking the Husky job.

Boulder, Colo., while a training ground for Autzen, may not be as intimidating.

“It was rough in Boulder, man,” defensive tackle Larry Tripplett said. “But it’s going to be different Saturday. In Colorado, the focus was on Coach Neuheisel. This week, they hate us. They may hate Coach Neuheisel a little bit, but they hate us, period. They hate everything about purple.”

Who really knows the origin? The important thing is, with a Rose Bowl berth likely at stake, Washington can’t afford to let the crowd ruin its snap cadence and audibles.

It’s a reality that quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo will have to change several plays at the line of scrimmage once he checks Oregon’s defensive formations. And with the constant blare raining down from the stands, that won’t be an easy thing.

“You just have to make sure that there’s enough time on the clock, because you might need to yell things a couple of times,” Tuiasosopo said. “You have to maybe step a little farther out from center to yell the play. It just makes it a little harder because guys have to look up.

“Usually, they hear it. It went fairly well against Colorado. There were maybe 10 plays where we had one guy who didn’t know what was going on. But that was the first time, and we should be able to correct that.”

The noise affects interior linemen more than anyone, even the wideouts. While Tuiasosopo can use hand signals to indicate the play to his receivers, linemen have to physically turn around and look at him.

Not only that, but while the wall of sound falls on them, they have to look at the ball to see when it is snapped, thereby ruining whatever advantage they have against the defensive line. It also will distract them from noticing stunts on the defensive line.

“I try to get off as fast as I can off of that,” Nelson said. “Hopefully, they’ll keep the snap counts simple and not check too often. But that’s the whole thing about having the homefield advantage.”

To help prepare, the Huskies have played piped-in crowd noise over loudspeakers at field level. In addition, the Husky band has played in the latter stages of practice in full decibel mode.

Is it enough?

“I think we get a pretty good evaluation of what it’s going to be like,” wideout Todd Elstrom said. “The way Husky Stadium is built, the noise is just going to settle in around the field. It’s probably as close as you’re going to get.”

Players hardly escape the haranguing once they leave the field. The stands are just 30 feet from the benches. Unlike Husky Stadium, Autzen has no track circling the football field. Players hear every opinion fans have about themselves, their families and their looks.

“They’re pretty amazing, some of the things they say,” defensive tackle Spencer Marona said.

So that’s what awaits the Huskies Saturday. Some have faced it. Some haven’t. Colorado’s Folsom Field was a good training ground, but that’s all it was.

It’s not Autzen.

“The important thing to remember is that you have a job to do,” Neuheisel said. “And for those 60 minutes, we have to focus on the job and not focus on the extracurricular things that aren’t going to help us get it done between the lines.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Tyler Cronk performs in the slam dunk competition during the Everett 3on3 tournament in downtown Everett, Washington on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Recap, videos and photos: 2024 Everett 3on3 was another slam dunk

Everett alumni place second; skills contests, food trucks and vendors were also in full swing this past weekend to celebrate the basketball tournament’s third edition.

View of T-Mobile Park from the Press Club. Ben Ray / The Reporter
T-Mobile Park at 25: Mariners fans share favorite ballpark memories

The venue turned a quarter of a century on Monday

Kamiak High School’s Victor Sanchez Hernandez Jr. puts on a University of Washington football helmet. Sanchez Hernandez, a three-star defensive end who’s heading into his senior season, committed to the Huskies. (Photo courtesy of Victory Sanchez Hernandez Jr.)
High school football recruiting: Here’s how Washington’s 2025, 2026 classes are shaping up

TNT sports reporter Jon Manley spoke with national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman.

From left to right: Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ellalee Wortham, Ava DePew and Presley Harris. The foursome, called “Awesome Mix 12,” won the High School Elite division in 2023 and returned to Spokane Hoopfest this year to claim the Women’s Competitive division title. (Photo courtesy Sarah Reese)
Winter Wesco rivals, summer hoopfest champions

Arlington’s Kierra Reese and Stanwood’s Ava DePew, Presley Harris and Ellalee Wortham teamed up to win back-to-back 3-on-3 titles.

Louisville guard Hailey Van Lith found little room between South Carolinas Destiny Littleton (11) and Laeticia Amihere. (Carlos Gonzalez / Star Tribune)
These Olympians in the 2024 Paris Games have ties to Washington state

Nineteen athletes competing in France are from The Evergreen State.

UW Husky rowing will be well-represented in Paris at 2024 Olympics

The U.S. eight competes in heat racing on July 29 with finals on Aug. 3.

Once an MLB bust, Mill Creek’s Travis Snider now hopes to change toxic culture

When Snider made it to the big leagues in 2008 at just 20 he was one of the game’s top prospects, touted as the Blue Jays’ next great hitter.

Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) skates with the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Flames at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chandler Stephenson’s deal about broader Kraken goals rather than dollar value

The former Golden Knights centerman signed a seven-year deal for $6.25 million with Seattle last week.

Seattle Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh (29) celebrates his two-run home run with a trident as he high fives teammates during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (Elías Valverde II / Tribune News Service)
Statistics show just how terrible Mariners’ offense has been | Analysis

Seattle leads the AL West, but situational hitting has been a setback.

Chandler Fry makes a short birdie putt on Hole 6 on Kayak Point Disc Golf Resort’s Red Course. Fry is a professional from Olympia, Wash., and he has tallied 31 career wins. He will be one of the players in this year’s Mixed Pro Open (MPO) division. (Photo courtesy Andy Jaynes)
Disc golf tournament to bring hundreds of competitors to Kayak Point

The fourth annual Kayak Point Open will feature some of the best players in the state and the region this weekend.

Everett AquaSox outfielder Lazaro Montes, the Seattle Mariners’ No. 4 ranked prospect, smiles while running onto the field prior to Everett’s game against the Spokane Indians on June 26, 2024 at Funko Field. (Photo courtesy Evan Morud / Everett AquaSox)
AquaSox week in review: Big-prospect Montes one stop closer to dream

RJ Schreck and Will Schomberg lead split against Vancouver.

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Logan Gilbert throws in the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians on April 7, 2023, at Progressive Field. (John Kuntz / Tribune News Service)
Mariners righty Logan Gilbert earns first MLB All-Star nod

Gilbert has made 18 starts this season and averages 6.5 innings per start, the highest in the AL.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.