Dec. 4, 2011
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - This will be a Lone Star Christmas for the Dawgs.
The Huskies are headed to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, to play Baylor (9-3) on Dec. 29 in what could be a wildly entertaining offensive show.
The Huskies haven't faced Baylor since 1965. The Bears from Waco, Texas, and the Big 12 Conference hold a 3-1 series edge in games that spanned 1954-65.
The 19th Alamo Bowl will be a showcase of two quarterbacks that spent the first half of this season leading the nation in touchdown passes. Washington's Keith Price set a school record with 29 scoring throws. Baylor's Robert Griffin III is a Heisman Trophy candidate with 3,998 yards passing with 36 touchdowns.
So the challenge is already clear for the Huskies (7-5) before they even get near the Alamodome: Slow down Griffin.
Yet Sunday, the Dawgs were mainly focused on the accomplishment of becoming just the eighth team in the country since 1960 to make two bowl games within three years of a winless season. Washington upset Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl last December, UW's first bowl since 2002.
Alameda Ta'amu summed up the Huskies' approach to this second consecutive bowl appearance - both on and off the field.
"I can't wait to have fun," said the defensive tackle that has been to football hell and back with his season classmates since a winless 2008.
"Two bowl games in three years? After going 0-12?" Ta'amu said. "We've come a long ways."
This will be the farthest road trip of Sarkisian's three seasons at UW. The 2,161 miles from Seattle to San Antonio is four miles farther than the Huskies went to play at Notre Dame in 2009.
Sarkisian's bowl plan, which he has followed since his days as a Rose Bowl-winning coordinator under Pete Carroll at USC, has been to arrive at the game site seven days prior to kickoff. That means the Huskies will be in San Antonio beginning Dec. 22 - and will for the second consecutive season meet Sarkisian's objective of being in a hotel for a bowl on Christmas Day.
As Sarkisian has been telling his players for the past two Decembers, a Christmas-morning practice is the best present they can get.
Last year at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego was the first time most Huskies had ever been anywhere but home for Christmas.
And they love the change.
"I'm just going to be happy that Christmas morning I'm going to be waking up in a hotel room," Sarkisian said after Saturday's practice. "That's a good thing."
Washington's next practices will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday next weekend. The Huskies then get three more days off before intensifying bowl preparations on campus beginning Dec. 15 in a practice week that will mirror a regular-season game week.
The Huskies' week in San Antonio will mirror that last practice week in Seattle.
This is the fourth time the Alamo Bowl has included a team from the Pac-10/Pac-12 Conference. The first two Alamo Bowls, in 1993 and '94, featured California and Washington State, respectively. Last season was the first in the conference's new agreement with the game, and Arizona lost to Oklahoma State.
The Alamo got the first choice Sunday of Pac-12 teams that did not make the Bowl Championship Series, and the second pick of non-BCS teams from the Big 12.
The only two teams ahead of Washington in the Pac-12 North this season are headed to the BCS. Oregon is going to the Rose Bowl to play Big Ten-champion Wisconsin after winning the first Pac-12 championship game Friday night. Stanford, which only lost to Oregon, also made the BCS again.
That plus USC still being on probation and ineligible for the postseason meant for the second consecutive season, everyone in the conference essentially moved up two spots in the non-BCS bowl pecking order.
The Alamo, which had an executive in the Huskies' locker room following last week's Apple Cup, ended up choosing UW over California - which is also 7-5 but finished one game behind the Huskies in the Pac-12 North - and Utah (7-5).
The Huskies, and their fans, are jazzed by being back in any bowl after going seven seasons without one. Last year, UW sold out its allotment of seats to the Holiday Bowl, and those ticket holders felt the trip to San Diego was way worth it following the Dawgs' upset of Nebraska.
The Huskies will now begin working to make those heading to San Antonio this Christmas time feel just as good.