Huskies aware of the big stage

SEATTLE - Husky Stadium is always first on the list of places to play, but if you asked the Washington players about other stadiums they hold in high esteem, the Rose Bowl would be right there at the top. In talking to them Monday, it became clear that not only are the Huskies eager to get back on the road, but they are also ready to create some Rose Bowl highlights of their own.

See, many of the purple and gold that will be playing against UCLA on Saturday have never played at the Rose Bowl, or at best have a distant recollection of the 21-17 loss the Huskies suffered two years ago - a game Washington had in hand until a controversial holding call, coupled with some defensive gaffes late - allowed the Bruins to back into the winner's circle. Many have only memories of former Husky greats making their mark at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. Players like Warren Moon, Michael Jackson, Jacque Robinson, Steve Emtman, Jaime Fields, Mark Brunell, Billy Joe Hobert, Mario Bailey and Marques Tuiasosopo easily come to mind when thinking of great Washington Rose Bowl performers from the past.

When it comes to talking about great performers at the Rose Bowl during their biennial tilt with the Bruins, it becomes just a little harder to find Husky heroes. In fact, it's downright impossible. Deshaun Foster, Drew Olson, Manuel White, Craig Bragg, Brandon Chillar, Ryan McCann and Chris Griffith come to mind as Bruins that have made sledding just a little tougher for Washington, as UCLA has won the last five meetings between the two in Pasadena.

"I haven't been home for a while, so it's going to be nice to see my Mom and my family," UW cornerback Roy Lewis said Monday. "But it's a business trip as always. We conduct ourselves as businessmen. But it'll be nice to see some familiar faces. The Rose Bowl is always a great place to play. We'll be going down there early in the season, and hopefully at the end of the season we'll be making a second trip down there. The Rose Bowl is historic, there's nothing like it. We love playing in that type of an environment."

Lewis played in the 2005 game, racking up four tackles and breaking up two passes. He's only one of eleven players from that 2005 team that will be suiting up against UCLA Saturday night. And for key members of the Huskies' 2007 edition, it's going to feel like familiar territory even if it is their first trip south.

"It'll be a first time for me, but I've heard that it's a great experience," Washington quarterback Jake Locker said. "Playing at night on natural grass again will be pretty neat. We always watched the (bowl) games on TV. When I was growing up, I didn't understand the whole national championship thing and who played in each game, but every year I watched that one (Rose Bowl). They called it the 'Granddaddy of them All', so I always thought that was the biggest game."

"I grew up watching the Huskies since I was a little kid, so the Rose Bowl means big games," junior lineman Casey Bulyca said.

"It's the Rose Bowl," receiver Marcel Reece added, matter-of-factly. "And a lot of my memories are of watching Washington in the Rose Bowl."

For the Washington-based players, the Rose Bowl may just be another piece of college football mythology, another place they have to play in order to win a conference game. "I like to beat people at their home," Husky linebacker E.J. Savannah said. "I feed on that. When we hit them hard at their house, the own crowd kind of goes silent. That's what I feed off of."

Reece - a California native - isn't caught up in all the lore - even if he grew up just a little over an hour east of Pasadena. "We have a chance to get back on our win streak," the Hesperia native said. "That's why it's going to be special to me. It'll be a better visit after a win."

And that's what these 'road warriors' intend to do - win. "UCLA is a good team, they always are," Bulyca said. Bulyca, who is starting at right guard, will be making his first trip to the Rose Bowl. "You can't take them lightly. Just because they got beat this weekend, that doesn't mean anything. So did we. We're going to see the best UCLA team they have, and both teams are going to play hard so we'll just see what happens at the end of the game."

"If you assume that they are going to come out and give you the game like they did last week, you're wrong," added Savannah. "They are going to beat you. Doesn't matter if they are the worst team in the league or the best one. We have to have the utmost respect for them, but have no fear of them."

It's clear the Bruins should have a chip on their block the size of the Paseo Colorado. The question for Washington is, will they come into Pasadena with a Supermall-sized chunk of pissed-off Husky, ready to get back to their winning ways? Was the Ohio State just a blip on the radar - albeit a blip currently ranked in the top-10? Do they have what it takes to win on the road in the Pac-10?

"I hope we're angry the whole season about losing that ball game," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said. But I hope we don't allow the residue of that ball game to negatively affect the next ball game or games. It's a real fine line."

"Alll of us understand that the game is in the past, and you can't do anything about it now," added Locker. "We lost, we didn't play as well as we needed to. We have to look forward to a really good opponent in UCLA next weekend."

"We take those kind of losses hard," Lewis said. "We take any kind of a loss hard nowadays. That's our mentality. We want to go out there and compete and win. That's what the game is all about - to make plays and to win. And when you lose a game that you know you could have played a lot better in, those are hard. But you have to grow from those experiences. It's a constant learning process."

Savannah learned a very valuable lesson in the Huskies' 33-14 loss to the Buckeyes. "I have to work harder," he said. He had eight tackles and two tackles for loss, but clearly his effort wasn't up to the standards he's set for himself. "I didn't work as hard as I needed to do during the week. I was just a little unprepared, and that won't happen again. I wasn't one thing, it was just me not having my mind right for the game. I think I could have done better at that aspect."

It's doubtful Savannah will have to work hard to get his mind right this Saturday night. It's the Pac-10 opener for the Huskies, who still have truckloads of motivation when it comes to the Bruins. There's always a lot at stake when a game is played in the Rose Bowl.

"I hate losing," Locker said. "Ever since I was a little kid I've hated it, and I still do. It's hard. Anytime you lose it's hard, but I hadn't experienced that in a long time."

"Each week, every team presents a challenge," added Lewis. "You just don't know what to expect. So you have to go into it with the mindset of just making plays and get the job done. We aren't concerned with who they played the week before. We will not let them out-prepare us."

"We expect their best," Reece said, simply. "We expect the best Bruins, and we're bringing the best Huskies. They are a great Pac-10 team, and they are going to play hard."

Any game played in the Rose Bowl requires as much. Top Stories