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Huff not down for long, and he helps Ducks stay on top

SEATTLE -- For a while on Saturday, it appeared as though Oregon’s 45-24 victory over Washington would come at a steep price.

Early in the second quarter, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a dump-off pass to Josh Huff. The senior receiver caught the ball and tried to turn it up field. After two yards, Huff was met by a Washington defender. As Huff lowered his shoulder, UO offensive guard Hamani Stevens tried to cut block the Washington defender. Stevens missed badly, hitting Huff from behind and sending him to the ground, Huff’s right leg twisting horrifically beneath him.

“I heard a pop,” Huff said. “I thought I broke my ankle.”

Huff stayed down on the field for a very long time. Finally, he was helped off, his arms wrapped around the shoulders of two teammates. He did not allow his right leg to touch the ground.

Mariota wondered whether he had just lost one of his favorite targets.

“I was just worried for him,” Mariota said. “I wasn’t sure what was going on.”

Once he got to the sidelines, Huff was surrounded by half-dozen people on Oregon’s medical staff. Before the half ended, Huff was taken to the locker room. As he allowed his ankle to be X-rayed, he expected the worst: to be told that the joint was broken; to be told that his career as a Duck was over.

That was not what happened, though. The X-ray came back negative.

“That lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Huff said. “It was really refreshing.”

Huff began to put weight on his ankle, testing it, seeing if he would be able to play.

“Once I was able to get the movement back in my ankle, I knew I was ready to go,” Huff said.

When Ducks coach Mark Helfrich heard that Huff was OK, he knew that his receiver would be back in the game.

“He didn’t have to campaign (to play) at all,” Helfrich said. “Our sports medicine people do a great job, and that guy (Huff) is a competitor.”

Before the second half, Huff asked himself a question: “Would my teammates ever quit on me?”

It was an easy question to answer.

“I knew they wouldn’t,” Huff said. “I wanted to fight through it for my teammates and show them that I really care and show them that I wanted this victory.”

Huff said he did not know whether his ankle is sprained, but he admitted that it was painful. He was able to put that pain out of his mind, though.

“Once you step between those lines, you can’t think of any pain you’re in,” Huff said. “You can’t think about what’s going to happen if you do a certain cut. You’ve just got to go with the flow.”

Huff knew he had a lot to prove. The usually sure-handed receiver was anything but that in the first half. In the first quarter, he took a handoff on the Huskies 7-yard line. As he raced for the goal line, Huff tried to dive for the pylon. When he hit the ground, the outstretched ball came out of Huff’s hand and bounced out of the end zone. The official originally called the play a touchback, but the call was later overturned. Later, Huff dropped a pass that went right to him. He finished the half with only two catches for four yards.

“Excuse my language, but in the first half I played like (expletive),” Huff said. “That’s something that every player is going to go through. You’re not going to have a perfect game each game. But it’s my job to look the balls in and have better ball security.”

When the Ducks got the ball in the second half, they were in a tight game. The defense had just given up a touchdown on Washington’s first possession of the half, allowing the Huskies to cut the lead to 21-14.

On the third play of the drive, Huff streaked by his receiver and found himself wide open along the right sideline. Mariota hit Huff in stride. Huff caught the ball and was gone on a 65-yard touchdown.

“I guess things happen for a reason,” Huff said. “I was able to swing the momentum after they scored.”

The catch sparked the Oregon offense, which at times looked out of sync in the first half. Huff wound up catching three more passes in the second half, finishing his day with six catches for 107 yards.

“He is a competitive dude, and he came up big,” Helfrich said.

Huff said he will be spending a lot of time in the treatment room next week in anticipation of Oregon’s 7 p.m. home game Saturday against Washington State.

“I’m still not 100 percent,” Huff said. “When we get back to Eugene, I’m going to go into the trainer and continue to get my ankle stronger.”

Huff will go through his recovery with a smile on his face, knowing that he finished his career at Oregon undefeated against Washington and that he played an integral role in the Ducks' latest victory over the Huskies.

“With it being my last year playing the Huskies,” he said, “it was a great way to go out.”