Huskies receive a huge reality check

Give Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini and their quarterback, Taylor Martinez, a lot of credit. When asked how the Cornhuskers were going to deal with a Husky Stadium crowd that had - at one time - registered the highest decibel rating in college football, the both appeared relatively unconcerned. They didn't anticipate it being a problem. Clearly they knew what they were talking about.

The partisan (but not by too much) Washington crowd - and give them credit too - did their part for as long as reasonably could be expected, considering it was hard to tell at times who the home team actually was. They helped create three false start penalties and put Martinez and the Husker offense under some difficulty. But NU did what good teams do, what top BCS teams do; they dealt with it. They adjusted. They made allowances for the fact that Washington was going to make some plays. But Nebraska was unfazed, rolling off score after score after score, while Washington was left wondering what they could do to stop the Big Red Machine.

The answer? Nothing. Nebraska had them out-manned, out-schemed, out-physicalled, out-finessed, out-runned, out-passed, out-special teamed, out-tackled, out-coached, out-intangibled…out-everything'd in their 56-21 throttling of UW. Heisman hopeful Jake Locker had his worst passing day as a Husky, throwing for only 71 yards, getting picked off twice. It was a complete and thorough dismantling of a team as Husky Stadium as seen in the last decade, and the only reason it felt so comprehensive was the way the Huskers did it.

They did it their way.

"You have to give credit where credit is due, but I don't think we played the way we're capable of playing," Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "I know we're a better team in all three phases. I know we can tackle better better than that; I know we can throw the ball better than that, and I know we can protect the quarterback better than that."

The Huskies didn't give the game to NU, no matter how you want to slice it up. Nebraska took it with both arms, and they did it behind the legs of a freshman signal-caller in Martinez, one that knew Husky Stadium wouldn't be too big for him because he had played in big high school games before. Apparently the state championship game against De La Salle in 2008 was more than adequate preparation for what he saw on Saturday.

"I don't get nervous before games, so they should probably stop asking me," Martinez said, with an expression you have to imagine was one of a cold-blooded assassin. "I don't really care if it's a home game or an away game, if it's in a loud environment or not…it doesn't really bother me."

And after Saturday, who can argue with him? The Huskers did something no other team has ever done against Washington in recorded history; they had three backs run for over 100 yards each; Martinez led the group with 137 (80 coming on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter), Roy Helu, Jr. added 110, and Rex Burkhead chipped in 104. I believe Lil' Red might have been credited with a late touchdown, but I lost count.

"It felt like I was back playing in the WAC…games start going crazy and it can get out of hand," Sarkisian said, channeling his inner Jeff Tedford from the night before when Nevada crushed Cal by going nuts in the run game.

The scariest part about the physical demolishment of Washington's front seven was the fact that the coaches weren't necessarily ready for it. ""We started to get pushed around, and that was disconcerting. I didn't get the guys ready to play, especially the inside guys," UW Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt said. "Our d-line got shoved around a little more than I thought they would. I'm disappointed in myself for not getting the kids a little more physically and mentally ready to go. I'll take the hit on this one."

"I thought it'd be a nice test for us, going against a good football team on the road," NU Head Coach Bo Pelini said afterward. "We have a long way to go as a football team, but this was a good step along the way."

If winning by 35 against the Huskies is considered a 'step', Pelini must have felt like he squished some pretty big bugs out there on the Husky Stadium field turf, because that didn't feel like a process game That felt like the arrival of a team prepared mentally, physically and every other way to kick the living crap out of anyone put in their way. And Washington's defense looked so battered by the end, they wouldn't have looked out of place at Ivar's.

Hell, Pelini even challenged a first down call up five touchdowns in the fourth quarter. That's what winners do, even if it did look and feel completely ridiculous at the time. Either way, he's the head coach leaving Husky Stadium with a resounding win, while the Huskies have a bye week to look forward to, one both Sarkisian and Holt agreed is coming at a good time.

Saturday's game was supposed to harken the Huskies back to the nineties, back to when Washington played a historic night game against NU in 1992, one they won 29-14. It was that game where Husky Stadium registered an ear-ringing 133.6 decibels - probably when Tommie Smith sacked NU's Mike Grant in the end zone for a safety.

And for the first three series or so, the 72,876 in attendance that weren't wearing red were more than up to bringing back the days of old. But after Martinez dashed around left end to start the third quarter and was met with nothing but flailing arms from senior OLB Victor Aiyewa, the Huskies weren't going to fool this crowd into thinking they could stir the echoes.

Meanwhile, the hordes of Nebraska fans that came to soak it all in were loud and proud until the very end. "We talked to the players and said we need to make sure and thank those fans," Pelini said. "I heard a comment behind me on the first bus when we were coming in, when we saw all that red as we were coming into the stadium. And they said, 'Is this a home game?'"

Given the scoreboard, the statistical discrepancy and the feel of the game, Nebraska had no reason to believe otherwise. The end zones may have been painted purple, but for a day, Husky Stadium might as well have been in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Getting healthy against BYE is a necessity for these black and blue dawgs. They'll need to take the time to assess where they are at, fix their problems and get ready for a stretch of six Pac-10 games where five of those teams are currently ranked. "We're a little beat up right now," Sarkisian said. "The bye is coming at a great time for us to get healthy, but also to push our young kids and get them even more game ready than they already are."


Dawgman.com Top Stories