It's payback time for the Huskies. It's not very often a team gets a chance at revenge at a non-conference foe in the same year. But the Huskies do indeed. They will try and make up for the 35-point demolishing they took against Nebraska in September when their defense gave up three different 100-plus-yard rushers, and their offense was basically offensive...figuratively speaking.
Of course, looking back on the season for the Huskies, you would have to consider this a step forward for Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, as his team is going to a bowl for the first time in years, they have a shot at the first winning-record in years and again, they get another crack at a team that pasted them.
Honestly, this is almost perfect for Washington, because it's one of the few chances you get in a season, if any at all, to go back and see what you did right, wrong or otherwise, and go against a team that beat you handily earlier in the year.
|After the last meeting with the Huskers, there's no place to go but up for Jake Locker|
Jake Locker was horrendous in that game, and we'll give Nebraska's secondary a bit of credit for that. He went 4-of-20 passing, which for a Heisman dark horse, which he was at the time, wasn't exactly going to wow voters into casting any early ballots in his favor. Actually, that might have gotten him taken off the ballots entirely.
But Locker is still Locker, and he wasn't getting first round draft talk for nothing. He's athletic as he showed in spurts against Nebraska. And he's got a solid arm which he showed on Washington's lone TD toss, a deep ball which the Huskies completed over the top of a secondary which prides itself on never giving up anything behind them.
And then there is the atmosphere of this game, which actually should favor Washington as well, because Nebraska fans look at this game as an insult, because they thought they were going to be in the Insight Bowl instead of Missouri. They look at it as stupid, because they would be playing the same team twice in the same year, and with the Huskies going to Lincoln next year, that's three times in 12 months..plus a week.
There's a lot of speculation that Nebraska won't be able to sell their bowl tickets.
Next to Mayans predicting the end of the world in 2012, this could be the most monumental statement to date.
So, you have a combination of things that play right into the favor of the Huskies for this one:
One, it's not easy beating a team twice in a year, even if you destroyed them previously. Not that it's the same thing, but in 1995 Nebraska put up 63 points on Arizona State...in the first half. Next year they lost to the Sun Devils 19-0.
Yeah, this is a bit different, but it stands to reason that what happened prior to this upcoming game won't be repeated, exactly.
Second, you have Jake Locker's performance which was amongst the worst of his entire career. And yes, this guy can be pretty darn impressive at both running and throwing the ball. The idea here is that surely he can't perform worse than he did before. Chances are, he'll perform a lot better.
Third, if the Husky defense has learned anything from the game film of Nebraska's contests since the game in Seattle, they realize that if Taylor Martinez can't run or doesn't run like he's able to, that offense can be close to
|Burkhead is Superman, not Tom Brady.|
pointless, literally and figuratively. Sure, Nebraska can run the ball when they want to. They certainly did against Washington, to the tune of 383 yards, the second highest single-game total on the season. If you watched that game Nebraska was pushing Washington off the ball from the outset, which had a lot to do with the quick 14-0 lead the Huskers put on them, helping to take the noted Husky fan base out of the equation.
The only problem with the Husker running attack and even the "Wildcat" featuring sophomore running back Rex Burkhead which has worked very well this year, Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson doesn't seem to want to stick to it that much. He has at times, but I seem to remember the most conviction he had to using that formation was when the Huskers went into the Iowa State game without Martinez and Zac Lee, the senior quarterback who started most of last season, was also out as he nursed a nagging elbow injury. So, it was Cody Green, the sophomore who started two games last year and behind him....
The Wildcat, which Nebraska saw eight times in a 12-play drive, wasn't just a weapon, it was a necessity. They couldn't afford for Green to get hurt, no way, no how.
But since that time Watson has gone to it sometimes, but gone away from it, seemingly at a time where it was working. Remember the bizarre pass by Burkhead to Taylor Martinez down to the goal line against the Sooners in the conference title game? Nebraska had basically been running it right at Oklahoma and they were actually making yards. Then Watson inexplicably calls this gimmick play where Burkhead, not having thrown a ball that far since high school, was asked to hit Martinez on basically a post pattern, which Burkhead tried to complete in double coverage.
OK, we get that Rex is Superman. There's no doubt. He's one of the most valuable players on the team. But asking one of your main running threats to complete a 38-yard pass, especially when the running game was working the entire drive up to that point - yeah, I don't get that.
So, Nebraska could be battling their own cleverness as well as battling the team that is lined up across from them on the field.
OK, let's face it and yes, this is an outside perception kind of thing. But this is a no-win situation for Nebraska. Now, don't tell that to the players or the coaches, because any game you have to play is a game you have to win.
But this is a team they already beat once this year. This is a bowl game that they are going to for the second year in a row, and I'm sorry, if it's not a BCS game we are talking about, that's not always a great thing.
Washington has everything to gain from not just having the extra practices, something they haven't had in about a decade - but they get to actually put an exclamation point on a season which featured some good, some pretty darn bad and some that left you wondering. To be able to beat or at least really compete with a team that already handed you your behind earlier in the year?
I'd be stoked, too.
So, the table is set, and it's not sexy for Nebraska, but if there is one thing we know about a Bo Pelini team, they come out to play, no matter who it's against and where the game is at. It will mean a whole lot to them, even if on a national scale it means almost nothing to anyone else.
Not exactly a marquee you can't wait to display, but it's another football game, it's a bowl game and it's a way to get away from subzero temperatures.
Heck, that last part is good enough for me. Bye-bye parka, hello San Diego.
OK, now I'm excited.