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Huskies face a tough Nebraska team in game No. 3

  • To beat Nebraska, Washington needs quarterback Jake Locker (10) to have the kind of outing he had last week in the Huskies’ 41-20 victory over S...

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    To beat Nebraska, Washington needs quarterback Jake Locker (10) to have the kind of outing he had last week in the Huskies’ 41-20 victory over Syracuse.

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • To beat Nebraska, Washington needs quarterback Jake Locker (10) to have the kind of outing he had last week in the Huskies’ 41-20 victory over S...

    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    To beat Nebraska, Washington needs quarterback Jake Locker (10) to have the kind of outing he had last week in the Huskies’ 41-20 victory over Syracuse.

SEATTLE — Jake Locker has read this novel before. Three times, in fact.
The University of Washington football team is coming off a promising performance in its second game of the season, only to turn around and find a top-10 opponent waiting to pounce.
During Locker’s first year as a starter, it was No. 10 Ohio State. Two years ago, it was third-ranked Oklahoma. And last fall, No. 3 USC played at Husky Stadium in the third game of the season.
Today, the eighth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers await UW (1-1).
“It seems like the third game of the year always brings a very worthy opponent,” UW’s senior quarterback said earlier this week. “It’s exciting, especially when you get a chance to play them at home in Husky Stadium. It’s something we’re looking forward to.”
What makes this game different from the previous three is that the Huskies know they’ve got a chance.
About this time last year — Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary — the Huskies shocked the college football world by knocking USC from its perch among the nation’s elite.
That 16-13 win will forever be a part of Huskies history. And for those who played in it, the memory could carry them out onto the field today.
“I think the best thing about it is our players won’t be in awe of the moment,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said this week. “We won’t be in awe of them coming out or (of) their helmets or (of) their fans. I think our players have been there before, and they’ll feel comfortable in that environment, they’ll feel comfortable in Husky Stadium. They’ll feel good if we’re in a tight ballgame with (Nebraska).”
For a variety of reasons, today’s game might bring back a sense of deja vu.
Last year’s Huskies were also sporting a 1-1 record after an offensive explosion against an inferior opponent (Idaho last year, Syracuse last week). The highly-ranked opponent featured an inexperienced quarterback (USC’s Aaron Corp was forced into action because starter Matt Barkley was hurt, while Nebraska freshman Taylor Martinez is making his first road start). And the game is being played at Husky Stadium in front of a national television audience.
When looking at today’s game, it’s hard not to think back a year.
“We want people to think that,” wide receiver Devin Aguilar said when asked whether today’s game reminds him of the USC game 364 days ago. “I believe we are a better team than we were last year.”
While the Huskies are more experienced and feature more offensive firepower than the 2009 unit, there are several reasons to believe that their opponent is superior to the USC team that played at Husky Stadium last September.
The biggest difference is that the Cornhuskers are in better shape than the Trojans were this time last season. USC was missing its quarterback (Barkley), go-to receiver (Ronald Johnson) and All-America safety (Taylor Mays) when it took the field at Husky Stadium. Nebraska is without Outland Trophy winner Ndamukong Suh, a star defensive tackle who is now in the NFL, but has most of its returning weapons healthy and ready to live up to the national billing.
Working in the Huskies’ favor is the fact that the game will be played at home, where UW went 5-1 last season. Sarkisian told a group of boosters earlier this year that he fully expected to go unbeaten at Husky Stadium this season, and he wasn’t backing down when asked about the comment Thursday.
“I believe we can,” he told reporters after Thursday’s practice. “I believe every opportunity we get we have a great opportunity in Husky Stadium. This is a tremendous home-field advantage for us. Our fans do a great job supporting us, and we’ll give it our best shot Saturday.”
The possibility of rain could also work in UW’s favor today.
“Dawg weather,” Sarkisian said as rain fell down on him after Wednesday’s practice. “We enjoy it.”
But the biggest thing the Huskies have going for them is confidence. Unlike previous matchups with ranked opponents, this year’s game brings a UW team made up of players who know what it’s like to pull a monumental upset.
“It’s the same kind of atmosphere,” said linebacker Cort Dennison, who came down with an illness two days ago but is expected to be in uniform for today’s game. “It’s a top-10 team, just like last year. It’s going to be the same kind of atmosphere: electric. Anytime we can use our fans to our advantage and playing in such a loud environment, it’s always a plus.”
Recent history may be on the Huskies’ side, but not all of the returning UW players are looking at it that way.
“We really can’t worry about last year,” Dennison said. “It’s this year now. This is a great team we’re playing. Great quarterback, fast, great receivers.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. We know they’re ranked as high as they are for a reason. We have to bring our A-game.”
And after last year, the Huskies know what their A-game looks like.
“I think we’ll be ready,” cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “It’ll be a great game.”
Story tags » FootballCollege FootballHuskies FootballNCAA Football

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