Sept. 11, 2000
SEATTLE - If Rick Neuheisel had his choice, he'd rather be coaching at Husky Stadium this week. In fact, he'd rather be coaching any other place than Boulder, Colo.
"I don't anticipate a lovefest or anything like that," Washington's second-year coach said Monday. "I doubt it'll be like that. There's always going to be emotion associated with a return."
Buffaloes fans are still mad at Neuheisel for jilting the Colorado program after the 1998 season to accept Washington's seven-year contract offer for $1 million a season. It won't make his return trip to Boulder any easier that Colorado is 0-2 under Gary Barnett, his successor, and the No. 9 Huskies are 2-0 after their 34-29 victory over Miami.
"If people are bitter that I left, that's part of college football," Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel coached Colorado for four seasons, going 10-2 twice, 5-6 and 8-4. He's toned down the once high-profile act that he employed in Boulder. He says he thinks before he talks now.
"I don't talk as much," he said. "I used to tell everyone what I was thinking. That just doesn't pay."
Neuheisel knows his team is ripe to be beaten after the Miami win because letdowns are a fact of life for college teams after big victories.
"We can't relax and go one step back," he said. "We know what's at stake this week."
Neuheisel also knows how it feels to be 0-2. His Huskies were 0-2 last season when they played in Seattle against Colorado. They won 31-24 and wound up going to the Holiday Bowl against Kansas State. Neuheisel wants to downplay his importance this week. He realizes that will be hard to do.
"I think what we need to do is focus on the game and let the players play the game," he said. "I had a great experience at Colorado." His players don't expect a great experience at Colorado, though.
"Colorado will be ready to play," said quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who the Pac-10 offensive player of the week after passing for a touchdown and running for one against Miami. "They're in their home town and they'll be fired up."
Said fullback Pat Conniff: "I imagine it won't be too pleasant for us Saturday. Their fans can't hurt us physically, but they're going to try to beat us down with words. Hopefully, we'll be able to respond to it."
New starting nose tackle Larry Tripplett will replace the injured Ossim Hatem.
"Coach Neuheisel is not going to put on the pads for us," Tripplett said. "He's not going to play quarterback."
Washington's chances of winning in Boulder took a major blow when the Huskies found out that Hatem, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound sophomore from Spokane, would be lost for about six weeks because of a broken left elbow. Hatem was injured early in the first half of the Miami game, but continued to play.
"That was a testament to how tough he is," Tripplett said.
Tripplett, the only returning starter from last season's defensive line, started the first two games at defensive end. For the Colorado game, junior college transfer Marcus Roberson will replace Tripplett at that position.
By JIM COUR
AP Sports Writer