SEATTLE – For them, there had to be plenty of occasions when the end just couldn’t come soon enough.
Now, the members of the University of Washington football team’s senior class want to extend their careers at almost any cost.
A win over Washington State in the 103rd Apple Cup this Saturday evening would add one more game to 13 playing careers that have been filled mostly with frustration. The baker’s dozen of fourth- and fifth-year seniors who are expected to play in Saturday’s game are trying not to think of it as their last.
“We always expect to win,” defensive end De’Shon Matthews said this week, “and (this week) we expect to go to a bowl.”
Getting to a bowl game has been the ever-elusive goal that these seniors have been chasing for most of their careers. An 0-12 season two years ago left them wondering if it would ever happen. Now UW stands one win away from finally getting back into the postseason.
“What would it mean to me?” said reserve linebacker Matt Houston, a fifth-year senior from Goleta, Calif. “Everything. Period. That would be the thing I’d want in college the most.”
Every Husky senior came to UW expecting to play in bowl games. Quarterback Jake Locker’s freshman class of 2006 was an optimistic group jumping into Year 2 of the Tyrone Willingham era, while the class that followed joined a program that was coming off a 5-7 season.
Since then, the Huskies have gone 14-34 and failed to get even close to a bowl game. The high point before this season was an upset win over third-ranked USC in Sept. 2009, but that team lost six of its next seven games to fall out of bowl contention.
The low point, of course, came in 2008. That marked the first winless season since the 1890 team went 0-0-1 after a scoreless tie with Washington College of Tacoma in its lone game.
That 2008 season has been all but stricken from the collective record among UW seniors.
“I really try not to look back on 0-12 and everything that went wrong,” senior safety Nate Williams said. “We’re in the present, and Wazzu is what’s important now.”
Matthews has chased that 2008 season so far from his memory that he didn’t even name it as his most difficult year at UW. He talked about the difficult transition he had as a freshman in 2006 before the black hole of 2008 was brought to his attention.
“I try to forget about that year,” he said. “I guess that would be the most disappointing year right there. But every year, you just try to turn the page.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that year. We just battled through every year, and I’m just happy to be able to finally be on the way to a bowl.”
Head coach Steve Sarkisian said last month that the perseverance of this senior class has made him “respect them almost maybe more than some other senior classes that I’ve been around because of what they have been through.”
UW’s seniors have been to the depths of college football waters, and there was a time when it looked like they might never come up for air. But with one more win, this class might get the postseason game for which they’ve worked so hard.
“It just hasn’t happened yet, and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth,” Matthews said. “For us to have an opportunity to go to a bowl is like icing on the cake. To go out like that would be amazing.”