The Huskies seek revenge against Nebraska, while the Huskers eye history.
The Washington Huskies began Thursday the task of putting in the game plan for their Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska with a motivation that is obvious — avenging a 56-21 loss to the Cornhuskers in Seattle in September.
Nebraska’s motivation, on the surface, seems a little more nebulous.
While Washington is just happy to be anywhere after winning its last three games to get bowl eligible and qualify for its first postseason since 2002, the Huskers appear cast in the role of unwilling participant.
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They are playing a team they already beat, in a game they won a year ago, having defeated Arizona 33-0 in the 2009 Holiday Bowl. And unlike UW, Nebraska got here by losing, relegated to the Holiday Bowl after a crushing 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.
Running back Rex Burkhead admitted the initial reaction among Nebraska players was to wonder the point of playing the Huskies again.
“At first you think that,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “You always want to play another team. But at the same time, you’ve got to realize it’s a bowl game, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
And as days have passed, Nebraska has begun to rally around other goals. First of all, they’ll try to win an 11th game for the first time since 2001. That’s something that has happened just 12 other times at a school with one of the most storied traditions in the sport. Second, they want to win 30 games over a three-year span, something else that would help distinguish this group of players as one of the best in Cornhusker history.
“Eleven wins is a big deal,” Burkhead said. “We can’t go in there thinking, ‘Oh, we beat them last time.’ We can’t think that. We’ve got go to in there playing like you play every game and go in there with an attitude to win.”
Complacency will be no issue for a Washington team that remembers well the feeling of the disastrous Saturday in September.
Thursday’s practice marked the beginning of UW’s serious work for the Cornhuskers. Washington will practice each day through Monday, take a few days off, then depart for San Diego on Dec. 23.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said his team isn’t necessarily overhauling everything based on what happened in the first game, but obviously there will be some tweaks.
“Hopefully the results are a lot different,” he said. “But we have a system in place that we run our plays in a variety of plays and formations and personnel groupings to make that happen, so we are not going to all of a sudden run the run-and-shoot (offense). We are going to run our offense. But I think portions of it will look similar and portions of it will look different.”
Sarkisian was asked about a quote from a Nebraska player that the Huskers wanted to again shut down the Huskies.
“They beat us the first time pretty good,” Sarkisian said. “They’ve earned the right to say what they want.”
• Sarkisian said the rest appears to have helped Huskies quarterback Jake Locker recover from his broken rib. “He looks as quick and as explosive as I have seen him look in quite some time, so we’ll continue to assess him. But his suddenness in the pocket and out of the pocket, his ability to play on the move is as good as we’ve seen in months,” Sarkisian said.
• Defensive end Talia Crichton, out with a knee injury since the Oregon State game Oct. 16, continues to progress and got some work in the team period.
• Safety Sean Parker, who missed the last three games with a pinched nerve in his neck, has yet to be cleared, Sarkisian said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
Dec. 30, UW vs. Nebraska @ San Diego, 7 p.m., ESPN