Saturday’s grand unveiling of $261 million Husky Stadium for the opener against Boise State is the latest in 12 months of new, different and distracting for UW football.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Not only do the Huskies intend to believe the hype that is building for their return to Husky Stadium on Saturday night.
They are embracing it – just as they have tackled and handled every other of the many distractions they’ve had this all new month back on Montlake.
Heck, the distractions actually began 12 months ago when the Dawgs prepped for their first “home” games of 2012 downtown at CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium’s renovations zoomed on.
Last Monday the Huskies moved out of the basement of Alaska Airlines Arena and into their new, 83,000-square-foot football operations building. All month they’ve gotten through gawking at the new, $261 million stadium during practices.
Now this weekend they will be dealing with the hype and noise of 70,000 fans watching them play Boise State in the first game on Montlake in almost 21 months. It promises to be the best game environment UW has ever had.
The Huskies players, of course, know this isn’t just another game.
"No one wants to get their emotions too high where they can’t control themselves," said senior Hau’oli Kikaha, the defensive end formerly known as Jamora. "But at the same time you have to respect what’s going on around you: This beautiful, new stadium; being back here after being in the Seahawks’ stadium for a whole year. You don’t want to take anything away from that, but you have to be focused in on every single play, at that moment.
"So, no distractions when we hit that field on Saturday."
As coach Steve Sarkisian noted after game-week practices began Monday morning, a sellout crowd is expected to fill the stadium and be among the first to experience its stunning transformation. Sarkisian even noted there were more than 300 boats expected to dock at “Husky Harbor” for sail-gating immediately beyond the east end zone, “which is what makes this place so unique.”
“Makes for a special night,” he said, understating.
So the distractions may be just beginning.
“Our staff and our players have done a really nice job of dealing with the move in, because any time there is a move in there are natural distractions,” Sarkisian said on the eve of his fifth season like none other at Washington.
“I thought (Monday) morning’s practice was energized, detail-oriented. And the team is hungry to go play, which is a great place to be in.”
Sarkisian will continue to “try to make practices as chaotic as possible” — with blaring music, crowd noise piped in, substitutions, physicality, etc. — this week during the daily morning sessions.
He noted how new wide receiver John Ross -- plus fellow freshmen who have been working with the starters such as defensive linemen Joe Mathis and Elijah Qualls plus safety Trevor Walker and receivers Damore’ea Stringfellow and Darrell Daniels – have handled almost everything coaches have thrown their way this month, on and off the field.
"Hopefully when they get out there they can handle the setting; I think they will,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve put them in a lot of extreme circumstances, and they’ve gotten good at responding to extreme situations.
But as Sarkisian said when asked about his freshmen that will be debuting Saturday: “I can’t replicate 70,000 fans.”
ASJ UPDATE: NO UPDATE
Sarkisian said preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has yet to get the medical OK to play in the opener.
"He’s not cleared to play, at all," Sarkisian said Monday just after noon, when asked about Seferian-Jenkins’ broken pinkie finger on his right hand that a surgeon repaired with a pin two weeks ago.
The coach emphasized the depth chart UW released Saturday listing Seferian-Jenkins as a starter was a post-preseason one and does not necessarily declare who will be available for the opening game.
"He was limited in this morning’s practice," Sarkisian said. "So he’s not been cleared to play physically as of yet, at all."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Beyond Seferian-Jenkins’ injury and the one Erik Kohler has had in his left foot since June that has the two-year starter on the offensive line out for Saturday, Sarkisian said “this is the healthiest we've ever been" entering any of his five openers at UW. That’s despite what the coach again specified as a particularly physical preseason camp. ... The new national cable channel Fox Sports 1 will have the broadcast of Saturday 7:06 p.m. PT kickoff. Gus Johnson, forever a UW fan favorite for his call of Isaiah Thomas' game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the Pac-10 basketball tournament championship in 2011 over Arizona, will be Saturday's play-by-play announcer. Charles Davis will be the color analyst as Fox brings its No. 1 college football crew to Husky Stadium’s reopening. ... This is the first time since 1927 the Huskies play the same opponent in consecutive games. The repeat foe 86 years ago: the men from the USS Idaho.