But the main thought was this: It’s good to have Washington Football back.
It was evident in seeing so many of those legends with big smiles on their faces all day long. It was evident in the multiple comments made from said players about the ‘feeling’ among the tailgates in E12 and beyond. They could sense something special, and they know all about that feeling.
It was evident from the response from Washington fans braving traffic and crowds that, frankly, haven’t been seen around Montlake in some time.
But it took a complete football game from the Huskies to make the day complete. And when the purple smoke cleared, the scoreboard read 44-6 in favor of UW over No. 7 Stanford.
Consider it a new ‘All I saw was Purple’ moment in the Washington Football scrapbook, a reference to ‘Robo QB’ Todd Marinovich’s famous quote describing Washington’s defensive effort in stifling No. 5 USC 31-0 in 1990, and a fitting bookend to the 1991 National Championship celebration and a time where the Huskies stood tall among the college football elites.
“Yeah, it was awesome,” UW quarterback Jake Browning said. “That was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of. Everybody rushing the field afterwards was pretty cool. Just for them to come out and support like they did was pretty cool and I think it helped a lot.”
The decibel meter didn’t quite reach 100, but the fans inside the renovated Husky Stadium definitely made their presence felt from the start. A full students section led the charge.
"What a night,” added UW Head Coach Chris Petersen. “That truly was the greatest setting in college football. What you get a night like that and pack that place, that was fun for, I know, our guys and our coaches and I hope our fans enjoyed it, too, because that was special.”
Petersen knows how special Husky Stadium can be, given a perfect storm of circumstance. Ever since ESPN picked up the game as a vehicle for Christian McCaffrey’s Heisman hopes, it was also clear the two teams could square off as unbeatens. And they would be doing it with an entire country watching a west coast game, an all-too-rare occurrence nowadays.
As the weeks passed, experts pointed to Friday’s game as the ‘Pac-12 Game of the Year’, the one that would likely hand the winner the inside track toward the conference title.
Having won the coin toss, Petersen handed the keys over to ‘Death Row’, the Washington defense went to work on McCaffrey, Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns, and every other Cardinal player that got in the way.
“We couldn’t really hear the calls or anything,” UW Outside Linebacker Joe Mathis said. “We were so focused. We were so focused in practice and we knew what we needed to do. We went out there and tried to kill them.”
Mathis was one of the serial offenders, as it looked like he had committed homicide on Stanford right tackle Casey Tucker early in the first quarter. Tucker and his left tackle bookend, A.T. Hall, looked like they had roller skates on instead of cleats as Mathis and fellow outside ‘backer Psalm Wooching assaulted the Cardinal to the tune of five sacks.
And when the defense wasn’t doing damage, the Husky crowd was doing it for them. Of Stanford’s 11 penalties on the night (they had only 13 all year long prior to Friday night), over half of them were false starts, delays of game, or illegal formations.
It was clear the Dawg Pack had Stanford spooked.
“It was almost like there was an earthquake on the field,” said Wooching. “On defense, on third downs, we were like ‘hey, pump up the crowd.’ And it was like, man we couldn’t even hear me to you. It was like ‘what’s the call?’ We had to do hand signals. It was crazy. The energy was unbelievable. It was amazing.”
While the result had old-timers like myself looking back to the Don James era for suitable comparisons, you only have to go back five years to find a similar result for UW.
In 2012, the then-No. 8 Stanford Cardinal had just come off a hard-fought win over USC and were coming to Seattle with a truckload of confidence. But they were breaking in a new quarterback in Josh Nunes, and he had never seen a sight like he saw during the Huskies’ ‘Blackout’ 17-13 win.
“Actually, I really knew I wanted to come to Washington after I saw them beat Stanford in 2012 at CenturyLink,” Mathis said. “That’s when I was like, ‘yeah, that’s the school I want to go to.’ And it’s just crazy. This is my first time playing against Stanford in all my four years. This is the game - it was just like a dream come true. I loved it. It was my favorite game.”
It makes you wonder…could there be a prospect out there that has a ‘Stanford 2016’ moment? Could this win for the Huskies mean something down the road for Washington Recruiting?
Time will tell.
It only took 25 years, but Husky Stadium was finally able to recapture - for a night - the aura that made ‘The Greatest Setting in College Football’ what it used to be.
And what it can obviously be again.
Washington has, for the time being, altered the college football playoff landscape.
“It felt like the time where Lawyer Malloy and all those guys talk about it,” Budda Baker said, a nod toward another one of the all-time UW safety greats. “This game felt like it.
“I came here and knew the history. I knew that the Dawgs haven’t been on top in a long, long, very long time. For me, I’m a home town person just trying to get them back on top.”