Tuesday, November 01, 2011
WASHINGTON WEEK Part II (The Pick)
This is a story I never tire of telling.
On October 22, 1994, Oregon football changed. The 1994 season didn't start out that way. Oregon lost to Hawaii, Utah and Washington State. There were only 25,000 fans at Autzen for Utah. At that game I looked around the parking lot and wondered "where is everybody?." The Ducks had beaten U$C in LA but we thought it was a fluke. Then came the Washington game in Eugene on October 22, 1994. I didn't want to drive three hours from Medford to Eugene to watch another Washington "blow out" of the Ducks. I had been there too many times before. In those days with two teenage children at home my kids took turns going to the games with me as we had two season tickets. It was my daughter's turn and so we drove to Eugene. I always like to park on the campus side of the Willamette River and take the footbridge over to Autzen. On a nice day it's a wonderful walk over the river and through the woods to Autzen. I parked on Franklin Blvd. and walked by the New Oregon Motel. It was full of Husky fans. We had also stopped by the book-store on campus and it was full of Husky fans. We got to the game and took our seats in SECTION 13 and the game started. Washington was ranked the # 9 team in the nation. Oregon kept it close. Oregon was leading by four points when Washington scored to go ahead 20 - 17 with 7:44 minutes to play. The game seemed to unfold as it had so often. "nice try"..." a moral victory" ... "close but no cigar". NOT THIS TIME. Danny O'Neil Oregon's QB led the Ducks on a 98 yard drive to regain the lead. It will forever be known as "The Drive." The Ducks now led 24-17 with 2:40 to go in the game. Washington then started their own drive and advanced to the Duck 8 yard line with 1:09 to play. With each yard the Huskies made, every Duck fan knew that Washington would score and win the game as they had so many times before. " So close, but no cigar." Then there was a play that will live forever in every Duck heart. Washington had plenty of time to give the ball to heralded tail back Napolean Kaufman. Instead, QB Damon Huard threw the ball in the flat toward Dave Janoski. Kenny Wheaton the Oregon CB timed the throw perfectly and stepped in front of the Washington receiver and intercepted the ball and ran it all the way back for another Duck touchdown to win the game 31-20. I was standing watching the play with my daughter. We both began to jump up and down!!! We then hugged as we both jumped up and down!!!. It was redemption! My daughter and I will always have that moment in time. On my dying day I will remember it. The play became known as "THE PICK". It is shown on the big screen at every Oregon home game just as the team comes on the field. Jerry Allen, the radio broadcaster's call of the play, has become a favorite of Duck fans... "KENNY WHEATON'S GOING TO SCORE....KENNY WHEATON'S GOING TO SCORE" I have a framed print of the play hanging in my office. After the game the many Husky fans looked crushed. The three hour trip back to Medford was like floating on air. Oregon went on to win the Pac 10 Championship that year and the entire family went to the Rose Bowl. It was the Ducks first time since 1958.
It was the beginning of the Golden Age of Duck Football !
last week Kenny Wheaton was inducted into the Oregon Duck Hall of Fame. He was introduced at mid field at halftime of the Washington State game on Saturday. As he left the field on our side those of us in sections 12and 13 started chanting "Kenny.... Kenny.... Kenny" and he gave us a wave.