Once a Duck hopeful, he’s now a happy Dawg

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Monday, September 25, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – If there’s one Washington Husky who knows what the Oregon Ducks and Autzen Stadium are all about, it’s sophomore defensive tackle Spencer Marona.

As a youngster growing up in Coos Bay, Ore., Marona dreamt of wearing green and gold. He knows well the wild atmosphere at Autzen because he was part of it.

Now as a Husky, Marona will be lining up against many Ducks he knows and will be the object of high-decibel derision from the stands he formerly inhabited Saturday when Washington plays Oregon.

“It might be a little strange, because I spent five years at the football camps there,” Marona said. “When I was young, I used to look at that duck in the middle of the field and think, ‘Play here someday; play here someday.’ I never thought I’d come back in a different uniform.”

No kidding. Marona put in much time at Autzen, both as a spectator and as a football camp participant. He went to the 1995 Rose Bowl and saw the Ducks lose to Penn State, 38-20.

“I spent a lot of time at Autzen, too, hanging out with my friends and my brother, who went there,” he said.

Marona estimates that close to 30 family members will be in the stands Saturday, along with another 100 people he knows well. Not that he’ll hear any of them. The other 42,000-plus Oregon faithful will have little problem drowning them out.

“Duck fans are crazy,” Marona said. “They love Duck football. They’re similar to our fans. The way the stadium is set up, it can get pretty loud. They may not have 74,000 like we do, but they have enough to let you hear them.”

Marona said Oregon was on his short list of schools when he was being recruited, but that Colorado and Washington were ahead. It came down to thinking with his head, rather than his heart. He credits his father, Lee Marona, for guidance. Lee Marona played at San Francisco State from 1963-67.

“I grew up a Duck fan until I started getting recruited,” he said. “In recruiting, my dad was a great mentor. I just said, ‘All right, this is the best education, these are the coaches. Forget rivalries.’ Washington was the one. You have to be objective to make the right decisions.”

He committed to Washington in October of his senior year of high school.

“When I put the cards down, I knew I wanted to come here,” Marona said. “I kind of wanted to get out of the state of Oregon and a degree from UW is awesome.”

  • No vacation: The Huskies spent time in the bye week addressing problems from the first three games, Neuheisel said. Wideouts need to run more precise routes, mental mistakes need to be eliminated and communication on defense needs to be improved.

    “We went back to the drawing board and tried to address fundamentals,” Neuheisel said. “Hopefully, we’re a little bit better than we were a week ago. The nice thing about a bye is that you freshen up and get healthy, but we weren’t really that dinged up. It remains to be seen whether we lost momentum or gained it.”

  • Hooks probably out: The Huskies likely will be without their fastest receiver against the Ducks. During a recent practice, wideout Wilbur Hooks complained of a strange sensation in his chest and was later diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat.

    Neuheisel said that tests Monday revealed nothing abnormal, but questions remained. Therefore, Hooks probably will be held out of Saturday’s game.

    Hooks’ absence leaves Washington without one of its only deep threats. True freshman Justin Robbins will start in his place.

    Hooks has eight receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown in three games this season.

  • Other Band-Aid news: Neuheisel said linebacker Ben Mahdavi practiced Sunday and may be available against the Ducks. Mahdavi suffered an ankle sprain against Colorado. He came back in the game as punt-snapper, but did not play linebacker.

    Also, nose tackle Ossim Hatem, who suffered a deep elbow contusion against Miami, may be available against Oregon. So severe was the bruise that it originally was thought to be a fracture.

    In addition, reserve safety Owen Biddle, who sprained an ankle against Miami, likely will return to action Saturday.

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