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UW Arrives In Heartland Seeking 1st Win At Nebraska Since '91 Title Season
Release: 09/15/2011
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Sept. 15, 2011

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by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

LINCOLN, Neb. - Maybe it's a Huskies omen.

Or maybe it's just an unusual name for a street in the capital city of Nebraska.

Whatever, Huskies senior placekicker Erik Folk got a charge out of Washington's team bus pulling onto Folkways Boulevard Thursday night, as UW entered Lincoln for just the fourth time in 122 seasons of Husky football. Folk pumped his fist as teammates on the special-teams bus called his name.

UW (2-0) would love for Saturday's 12:30 p.m. showdown here against 11th-ranked Nebraska to go Folk's way - or the way of anybody wearing visiting white, purple and gold at Memorial Stadium.

ABC (and, for those along the Atlantic seaboard and in the southern half of the country, ESPN) will televise the Huskies' first game at Nebraska since 1998. The Washington IMG College network has the radio call, and we will again have our exclusive-access live game chat from the sidelines here on GoHuskies.com

The last time a game went Washington's way here was in 1991. That season, of course, turned out OK: The Huskies ended it as national champions.

After a 42-7 win at Stanford in the '91 opener, UW took a bye week to prepare for a huge test at No. 9 Nebraska 20 years ago next week.

"Back then it was, you should never beat Nebraska. You chalk that up as a loss," then-Huskies coach Don James said this summer.

For the Dawgs, the nationally televised night game on ABC was their chance to show the country they were as good as they thought they were.

"Entering the season, I was telling everyone we would win the national championship. We just had to get past that one game early, at Nebraska," 1991 wide receiver Mario Bailey said of a UW squad that returned most from a 10-2 team that had beaten Iowa in the Rose Bowl months earlier.

Down 21-9 at Nebraska on Sept. 21, 1991, Washington faced a fourth and 8 in the third quarter.

"Normally I would have punted the ball. I was usually more conservative," James said. "But we had to go for it. We were down, on the road, playing a great team.

"And I remembered a quote from one of their coaches before the game that you couldn't win big with that (one-back) offense. That was incentive."

James uncharacteristically threw on fourth down, and Billy Joe Hobert - starting because Mark Brunell had injured his knee severely in spring drills - connected with Orlando McKay on a slant pattern for the first down.

The decision and the result were the pivotal moments of the season.

The emboldened Huskies roared back from there to win 36-21, outscoring Nebraska 30-7 after halftime. Washington's astounding 618 total yards was the most the Cornhuskers had allowed in 35 years. Jay Barry sealed the statement victory with an 81-yard run around right end on third and long with UW leading 29-21 late.

The Dawgs were so good that night, they got a rousing ovation from Nebraska's fans when it was over.

These 2011 Huskies aren't seeking that - though they have been working intensely to make 3,600 UW fans that have tickets for this showdown rowdy on Saturday, amid a sea of Cornhuskers red.

Coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff turned up the intensity even more this week in practices. Those have been focused on pinpointing defensive assignments against Nebraska's speed option plays, and on the offense solving NU's veteran defensive front and athletic pass coverage.

This, after last week's buck-up sparked a 21-0 first quarter by the Huskies against Hawaii.

"It was an intense week - again," Sarkisian said back in Seattle earlier Thursday, following a 60-minute practice at Husky Stadium. "I thought our players responded to some of the challenges we posed to them, to get better. And I thought they've executed well."

UW's defensive line is gaining size this week to combat Nebraska's running game. Sarkisian said 6-foot-6, 272-pound Everrette Thompson, who started the first two games at tackle, will spend some time at end. And look for much more time for freshmen Danny Shelton (334 pounds) and Lawrence Lagafuaina (329 pounds) inside at tackle.

"It's one of the beauties of having the depth we have on the defensive line," Sarkisian said. "We can move guys around."

QUICK HITS: Junior DT Semisi Tokolahi, a force late last season until he dislocated and broke his ankle in December's Apple Cup, is likely to make his season debut on Saturday. That's 334 more pounds inside. ... Sarkisian said S Nate Fellner will not play Saturday because of a hamstring injury, and that backup S Taz Stevenson is doubtful because of a knee injury. Stevenson got hurt in practice Wednesday. Justin Glenn and Will Shamburger are next in line there. ... Besides that '91 visit and another in '98, the only other time the Huskies have played at Nebraska was 1925. That game ended 6-6. ... It was raining and 53 degrees when the team plane landed at about 7 p.m. local time Thursday night. The forecast in Lincoln for Saturday calls for a 30-percent chance of showers, winds up to 17 miles per hour and a high of 71.

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