Sept. 12, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - One night. A dozen or so hours.
That's how long the Washington Huskies gave themselves to savor Saturday's 41-20 sprint past Syracuse in their 2010 home debut.
There's a big, red reason for the Dawgs' abbreviated barking about squeezing the Orange: undefeated, eighth-ranked Nebraska is coming to Seattle this week.
"Got to get right back to it," Huskies safety Nate Fellner said.
He forced two fumbles against the Orange Saturday, then spent Sunday in the football offices watching film on the dynamic Cornhuskers.
The Nebraska game on national network television this Saturday is Washington's chance to show the country how far coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff have brought the Huskies back in one-plus seasons.
It's also an opportunity for a wild scene inside Husky Stadium, where Washington has outscored Washington State, California and Syracuse by a combined 113-30 in the last three home games dating to last season.
Over 16,000 single-game tickets have been sold for Saturday's game. That's four times more than for any other single Huskies home game. And at least 8,000 of those have been sold to Nebraska's rabid fans. Put that on top of the 53,898 season tickets sold to the public and to UW students as of last week, and the Huskies are close to selling out their venerable, 72,500-seat House of Roar.
Last season's largest home crowd was 68,697 for the Apple Cup win
"It's going to be rockin'," middle linebacker Cort Dennison said after he led Washington with 12 tackles against Syracuse.
"It's Nebraska. It's big-time football," Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt said of the Cornhuskers, who beat Idaho 38-17 Saturday behind five interceptions - two of which they returned for touchdowns. "Thank God we are playing them at home. "
The Huskies' brief reaction to rolling for 467 yards on offense in beating Syracuse plus their intense preparation for Nebraska show Washington isn't satisfied with being 1-1 in this season full of bowl-game expectations.
How pivotal is this game to Washington's season, this final contest before Pac-10 play begins two weeks later at USC? Holt said he and his staff began studying game tapes on the Cornhuskers month ago.
"I know they had 300 yards rushing (against Idaho). I know they are going to be a really, really good offense," Holt said. "I think it's going to be a great game, I really, really do. It will be good for us. We need to play a team like that. It gets us ready for USC and the Pac-10 season."
Holt noted Nebraska's offense is looking like Oregon's, with a dangerous running quarterback. Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Idaho, though Nebraska coach Bo Pelini chewed out his offense after the win because of mistakes and penalties.
Somewhat lost in Jermaine Kearse's career Saturday of three touchdowns and 179 yards receiving for Washington, lost in Jake Locker's 22-of-33 passing for 289 yards with a career high-tying four scoring throws and Chris Polk's 117 yards rushing was Holt's defense. It awakened against Syracuse.
After special-teams slips gave Syracuse drive starts on Washington's side of the field early and led to a 10-0 lead for the Orange in the first quarter, the Huskies allowed only a field goal and then a fourth-quarter touchdown pass when UW was up by 21. That late TD came after a fumble gave Syracuse possession at the Huskies 14.
So when Washington had field position in its favor for some of the only times so far this season, the Huskies held Syracuse to just a field goal.
"I think we're playing at a better level than last year, because we know our defense better," Holt said. "It's already showing an improvement. We've just got to clean some stuff up."
Cleaning time is now. As Fellner agreed that "we've got to get better this week at practice."
And Nebraska is arriving angry with their uneven performance against Idaho .
"Our attention to detail needs to pick up. Our attitude needs to pick up, and our standards need to pick up," Pelini told reporters following Saturday's game in Lincoln, Neb. "We'll get that fixed. We'll be fully ready as a football team to go to Seattle. I promise you that."
Holt and his Huskies say they are ready for the challenge.
"I look forward to it," Holt said. "It's going to be a heck of a matchup."