The Oregon vs. Washington football game is and has been a decades-long, hostile rivalry.
With a bye week in between (and this year’s home field advantage), Ducks fans have had even more time to bring their simmering blood to a rolling boil. In short, fans are ready and Autzen Stadium will be loud and rowdy.
(PSA: Please don’t throw objects . . .or punches).
The question is, how are Cristobal and Co. handling all of the rivalry hype leading into Saturday’s game?
As a coach, Mario Cristobal says all the right things. He does his best to tame down the hype by emphasizing focus and preparation. Make no mistake though; Cristobal absolutely understands the emotion and more importantly, what it’s like to play in the midst of it.
When asked this week about his player days at Miami, Cristobal grinned and then paused to gather his words.
“Back then, as a player. . .how do I keep this? ” Cristobal began. “Those are games that any player, every player you know you always circles on your calendar.”
From 1989-1992, Cristobal was a starting offensive lineman for the Miami Hurricanes. As is still the case, Florida State was the program’s biggest rivalry and widely considered one of college football’s most anticipated games each season, with attendance archived over 60,000 each game he played there (77,338 in 1992.)
“That was hot,” Cristobal said. “That was intense.”
While playing at Miami, Cristobal and his team went 3-1 against FSU with two of the three Hurricane wins coming in very tight games with FSU missing late-in-the-game field goals.
But it wasn’t just the rivalry and bragging rights on the line. It was a National Championship.
At that time, Miami sat atop the college football rankings and Cristobal’s team went on to compete in and/or win the National Championship in 1989, 1991 and 1992.
The Ducks may not be on the path to this year’s College Football National Championship, but there is plenty on the line. A win could keep Oregon in the Pac-12 North race while also giving Cristobal his first conference win at home. It could also help avenge the last two season’s back-to-back embarrassing losses.
As level-headed as he is, Cristobal understands this match-up is intense and he knows he can only shield the team so much from the all the build up.
“We’ve just got to always make sure our players make it passion and not emotion,” Cristobal said.
“Passion is pure fuel that’s never ending. Your tank is never going to run out of passion. Emotion, that’s short lived fuel.”
So, yes. Cristobal gets it; There’s no denying the passion. The game has been “circled.” It’s just that circling the date isn’t enough.
“Whatever you circle, whatever you set as a goal, a goal without a plan and preparation is nothing but a wish, ” Cristobal said.
“Around here we don’t just sit around and hope and wish.”
Spoken like a true coach. Something tells me though, Cristobal’s playing day memories may be “fueling” his tank this week.
Kick off is set for 12:30pm PT. Aired on ESPN2/ABC (depending on where you live).
Follow Nichole on Twitter @UOgridirongirl