The Washington Huskies had a secret weapon for the Holiday Bowl that was so secret, they didn’t even know about it.
But now that it’s no longer a secret, it doesn’t make it any less of a weapon.
Late in the Huskies’ practice Thursday night, tailback Rashaan Shehee caught a quick pass over the middle, feinted left, broke to the right and raced downfield to a chorus of: “He’s back, he’s back, Shehee’s back!” from teammates and assistant coaches having fun on the field at the University of California San Diego.
It was not a big play. In fact, it was merely a passing drill against defensive backs.
But there was Shehee, the Huskies’ erstwhile offensive leader, shaking off the effects of more than two injury-laden months, establishing himself as a potential key element in the Washington game plan for Monday night’s game against Colorado.
“I think he wants to surprise some people,” quarterback Brock Huard said. “He sure surprised us. He doesn’t look too rusty at all.”
Running backs coach Al Roberts said that Shehee is not in full-game shape, having missed the last six games with a heel injury, “but he’s a lift. He really is a personality lift for us, and if we can just get him five or six plays, it’ll help.”
Coach Jim Lambright said that as recently as Monday he didn’t have any reason to think Shehee would be ready to play in the bowl game. But the junior from Los Angeles, who averaged 122 yards a game rushing in his seven starts last year before his 1996 season was ruined by a preseason hamstring injury and the heel problem, told coaches Tuesday he wanted to give it a go.
A healthy Shehee is something the Huskies have not had all season. If he’s able to play, he’d back up starting tailback Corey Dillon, as well as be available for some three-receiver formations.
Washington players say the Holiday Bowl experience has been much different from last year’s trip to El Paso for the Sun Bowl, if only because of the experience of having been to a bowl game.
“These have been some of the best practices I’ve ever seen,” said junior defensive end Jason Chorak. “Guys are taking it more serious.”
Players aren’t staying out as late, he said, “and we’re having more fights on the field.” Chorak mixed it up Thursday with offense tackle Tony Coats, but he said it was forgotten soon after.
Husky band misses battle
Among the planes unable to get off the ground Friday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was the charter carrying the Husky marching band.
Because of it, the Huskies missed a “battle of the bands” against Colorado.
The band expects to get to San Diego for Monday’s game and is looking forward to some Southern California weather, too.
Band members sat on a charter plane for 7 hours watching Sea-Tac crews fight the ice before the flight was canceled.
“There’s some thick ice on it. They’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got. They just keep running out of de-icer fluid and they have to keep going back and refilling and turn around and coming back,” said band member John Boerger, noting freezing rain left more ice on the plane than the de-icer could handle.