SEATTLE — Jake Locker came to Washington thinking that Washington State was the Huskies’ only big rival.
One trip to Eugene — as well as some verbally abusive fans — taught him otherwise. More than ever, Washington vs. Oregon has become a big rivalry, one that some feel rivals the Apple Cup. On Saturday, the teams will face off at Husky Stadium when Washington hosts seventh-ranked Oregon.
“I always thought the Apple Cup, Wazzu and Washington, was the big rivalry, then when I got here Oregon week is almost as big as Washington State week,” Locker said. “That’s something I learned when I got here.”
Locker learned first hand the intensity of the rivalry last year.
“The knew a lot of us,” he said of the Autzen Stadium crowd. “They were calling a lot of us by name. It seemed like they had read our bios in the program. They knew a lot of stuff about us. It was a pretty hostile environment to say the least. They really kind of personally went after you. It was fun, it’s all in good humor, but it was a different feeling when we went down there.”
Locker isn’t the only player who had to learn about the Oregon rivalry. Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim came to Washington from Hawaii knowing nothing of a border clash.
“Maybe if I was from here I’d understand it more, but just being around here, this week always becomes a big deal around the school and everybody wants us to beat the Ducks,” said Te’o-Nesheim, who said he still considers the Cougars the Huskies biggest rival. “I’m an Apple Cup guy.”
Senior defensive end Caesar Rayford said his mother didn’t want to drive to Oregon for fear of vandalism to her car should she be labeled a Husky fan. He said she and other friends rented a van just to be safe.
“It’s getting bigger and bigger every year,” Rayford said. “Just the energy from their fans and our fans, and from their team and our team, it’s like this big ball of energy. It’s great. Each team feeds on it and every year gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s like a hurricane when these two teams come together. It’s fun, it’s chaotic and it’s exciting.”
Rayford’s first experience with the rivalry came in 2003 when he attended the game as a senior in high school. That was also the last time Oregon played at Husky Stadium.
“The last time they came up here, it was a great game,” he said. “It was my senior year of high school and it was just insane in that game. The fans and the UW guys came out and got after it. It was fun to watch, and hopefully we can bring that same intensity this week.”
In the end however, the Huskies don’t plan to put too much energy into worrying about the rivalry.
“I don’t think you ever want to focus on those kind of things too much,” said Locker. “It’s our job to go out and play the game. It’s another opponent. Really it’s no different from the first six weeks. Obviously it is a bigger game, but that’s something I don’t think we can let affect how we prepare or get ready for the game, because that shouldn’t change from week to week.”
Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at email@example.com. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com/huskiesblog
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