Road to 1991 Perfection: 'Ducks Were Jealous a Little Bit'

The University of Washington inside linebacker remembers the animosity increasing in the Oregon series, though the Huskies continued to dominate their rival.
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James Clifford recalls the Washington-Oregon series growing in intensity when he played, especially when the Huskies visited Eugene, but the outcome didn't fluctuate much. 

Ducks fans were so bothered by this they threw dog biscuits at the Huskies when they took the field, with fellow inside linebacker Dave Hoffmann retrieving a couple and eating them and barking to mock those Autzen Stadium crazies. 

Oregon followers also ran around pulling stuffed dogs on a string, the only way they had the upper hand as the rivalry entered the 1990s. 

"I think at the time, they were jealous a little bit of what was going on," said Clifford, an inside linebacker who now serves as the Mariners strength and fitness coach. "Then the tide turned. We got jealous of them. We're getting back there."

This is another in series of vignettes about the UW 1991 national championship football team, filling in the conversation before the pandemic-delayed season begins next month. This is week 7 of the perfect 12-0 run.

In 1991, fewer theatrics took place as the Huskies experienced something of an off day against 31-point underdog Oregon but still won 29-7 in Seattle.

Clifford and the defense provided a pair of blocked punts, three interceptions and a fumble recovery, but the UW offense couldn't do much with it. The Huskies had to settle for three Travis Hanson field goals that day, which didn't sit well with the position players. 

"As a defense, we hated relying on a kicker," Clifford said. "It's just not something that we thought was possible and we were hard on them. Some guys were really hard on our kickers maybe for not getting it done. We didn't want to use them."

Hanson, now Deer Park School District superintendent, didn't offer that as a reason, but he declined a request to be recorded and take part in the series. He said he was merely a spectator to what went on in 1991.

For Clifford, he was coming off the bench and playing about half the games after missing the previous season with a knee injury. Two seasons before, he led the Pac-10 in tackles. He wasn't going to miss this national-title pursuit no matter what, including beating Oregon.

"Do I think I was the same player I was before, no," Clifford said. "But I was ready to go."

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