For openers, it doesn’t get much better than this.
After 22 months away, the Washington Huskies return home Saturday night for the reopening of Husky Stadium and a much-anticipated rematch with No. 19 Boise State in the 2013 season opener.
A sold-out crowd of 70,138 is expected for a 7 p.m. kickoff and a national broadcast on FOX Sports 1, and pregame ceremonies will offer tributes to the stadium’s rich history and the program’s proud tradition. The forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the low 80s — a scene that is shaping up to be a memorable evening as UW kicks off its 93rd season in Husky Stadium.
There’s only one thing that could make the scene better for the Huskies: a welcome-home win.
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“What will make it special,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said, “is the way we play the game.”
Entering the $280.6 million rebuilt stadium, the Huskies will employ a rebuilt, no-huddle offensive attack designed to push the pace and pump out points. How smooth will this first test run be for the Huskies?
Without suspended tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Huskies figure to again rely on the sturdy Bishop Sankey, who rushed 30 times for 205 yards in UW’s 28-26 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas in December.
Having a fifth-year senior quarterback, as UW does in Keith Price, is typically a positive sign, too. The hope is Price reverts to his 2011 form — when he threw a school-record 33 touchdowns — and not the oft-rattled 2012 version who played behind a beat-up offensive line.
“The one thing for Keith is to quiet things down around him, focus on his job and play the football he’s capable of playing,” Sarkisian said. “When he does, he’ll be great. And that’s what I expect him to be.”
Some have pegged this matchup against Boise State as the most important game of Sarkisian’s tenure at UW, now entering a fifth season. Expectations are for the program to improve upon three consecutive 7-6 seasons, and Sarkisian has embraced those.
The Huskies have talked often this month about having a “chip on our shoulders” after devastating losses to Washington State and Boise State to end the 2012 season.
“Those last two games — those hurt,” UW linebacker Shaq Thompson said. “They’re still burning in our souls. But you know what, we worked really hard in the summer to prepare for something like that never to happen again.”
In the bowl game, Thompson admitted the Huskies were “shocked” by the mobility of Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick, who was credited with 11 rushes for 39 yards in Las Vegas. Southwick, now a senior, also completed 26 of 38 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
“He absolutely hurt us in the bowl game a number of times — throwing the ball and running the ball,” said UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, a former Boise State assistant coach.
Boise State has built a reputation under coach Chris Petersen as a program willing to take on anyone, anywhere. Since knocking off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos are 7-2 against teams from the six BCS conferences. (That includes a 1-1 record against UW, with Boise State losing 24-10 in its only other visit to Husky Stadium, in 2007.)
“They feel like they’ve got a lot to prove this year,” Southwick said of the Huskies. “Same here for us. We feel like it’s going to be a slugfest.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude