SAN DIEGO - A little more than three months after the Nebraska Cornhuskers marched up and down the field, and then some, against the Washington Huskies, the teams will meet again in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday night.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini downplayed the rematch angle, saying both teams are different all these weeks after a 56-21 win in which the Huskers piled up 533 yards of total offense, including 383 rushing.
“We’re a different football team than we were three months ago and I’m sure Washington is a different football team than they were three months ago,” Pelini said at a news conference Wednesday. “Everybody wants to make a big deal about it. I coached in the NFL for nine years so I’m used to playing against a team twice in a season. Every time you play, you’ve got to earn it on the field.
“It’s going to be a heck of a football game. They have a lot of momentum. They’re a better football team than they were. Hopefully we are, too.”
No. 17 Nebraska is 10-3. UW is 6-6.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian is taking the same approach.
“I don’t think revenge is a factor at all,” said Sarkisian, who has led the Huskies back to respectability two seasons after they went 0-12 in Tyrone Willingham’s final season. “When you prepare for any ballgame, our focus is about who we are and what we’re about and what we can control. The revenge factor, that all sounds good, probably, in meetings the night before the game, but at the end of the day, if you can’t stop inside zone, you can’t stop power, then revenge, that doesn’t matter. Ultimately, no, that’s not a real factor for us.”
What is a factor is UW’s return to a bowl game for the first time since 2002, and trying to send quarterback Jake Locker off to the NFL with a final college victory. Locker returned for his senior season only to have the Huskies fall short of the Pac-10 title.
“I think he’ll play a passionate ballgame,” Sarkisian said. “I think one of the challenges from the quarterback position is not to try too hard, not to try to make every single play. So it’ll be a real challenge for me in calling plays and managing the football game to put him into position to make his plays, yet allow the game to come to him.”
The Huskies won three straight games, including the Apple Cup against last-place Washington State, to become bowl eligible.
Back on Sept. 18, Washington didn’t put up much of a fight at home against the Huskers, allowing 533 yards of total offense, including 383 rushing. Taylor Martinez (137 yards, three touchdowns), Roy Helu Jr. (110 yards, two TDs) and Rex Burkhead (104 yards, one TD) combined for the fifth triple-100-yard game in school history and the first since 2001.
Nebraska is coming off a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game in which it blew a 17-point lead.
Martinez had a disappointing performance against the Sooners, going 12 of 24 passing for 143 yards with an interception. He was sacked seven times and had three fumbles, losing one.
Nebraska is in the Holiday Bowl for the second straight year. The Huskers beat Arizona 33-0 last year, the first shutout in Holiday Bowl history.
This is UW’s fourth trip to the Holiday Bowl, with the Huskies still looking for their first victory.