Aug. 26, 2003
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Washington Huskies are used to big road games. Yet Saturday's game at defending national champion Ohio State overshadows almost any in the past.
``We've been to Miami, we've been to Colorado, so we've been in some tough venues. We went to Michigan a year ago,'' first-year Washington coach Keith Gilbertson said by telephone Monday. ``We've played a lot of really quality type of competition in tough places to play. Maybe not near as difficult as Columbus _ I don't know.''
More than 100,000 are expected on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium when the Buckeyes, ranked No. 2 in the preseason, meet No. 17 Washington in Gilbertson's debut.
The setting isn't a whole lot different _ at least inside the stadium _ than it was at Ohio State's last game. Buckeyes fans flooded Sun Devil Stadium on Jan. 3 at the Fiesta Bowl as Ohio State edged top-ranked Miami 31-24 in double-overtime to win the national title.
Gilbertson took over after Rick Neuheisel was unceremoniously dumped on June 12 after a contentious gambling scandal. This isn't his first game as a head coach _ he was in charge for three years at Idaho and four more at California.
In addition, he has been an assistant coach at Idaho State, Western Washington, Utah State, Idaho, the USFL's L.A. Express, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and at Washington in a 34-year coaching career.
He has obviously been around _ it would seem almost every stadium in the country except for where he is taking his team on Saturday night.
``Am I going to be excited about the game? Heck yeah. Am I going to be nervous? Sure, I'm going to be nervous,'' said the 55-year-old Gilbertson, the Huskies' offensive coordinator and tight ends coach the last three seasons. ``It's an unbelievable facility they have. They have great fans. They have great passion, a great following. It's one of the great places in college football.''
Rather than get caught up in all the emotion, however, Gilbertson prefers to concentrate on what the talented Huskies have to do. Besides, a slow start cost Washington a year ago when it opened its season at Michigan.
The Huskies fell behind 14-0 early in the game and ended up falling short, 31-29.
``I've been some places and played against some teams that I thought were tough. Maybe not anywhere like Columbus, obviously,'' Gilbertson said. ``We're looking forward to it. Excited about it. But we also know who we're playing and how good they are.''
Much like Washington and the Neuheisel saga, Ohio State has been in the headlines throughout the past few months for reasons removed from football.
Sophomore tailback Maurice Clarett was held out of preseason practice because of his acknowledged exaggeration of his losses when his car was broken into in April. On Friday, coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Andy Geiger said that Clarett would be suspended for ``multiple games'' while the university answers NCAA allegations of wrongdoing against Clarett.
Gilbertson isn't affected by the controversy swirling around the Buckeyes. He also said it didn't make much difference that Clarett was being replaced by either Maurice Hall or Lydell Ross at tailback.
``Ohio State will have more than one quality tailback,'' Gilbertson said. ``The two other youngsters that are listed to play are highly respected guys, highly recruited, and we know they're going to put a quality athlete at tailback. So we defend (against) the system and not particularly the individual.''