The last time the University of Washington football team walked onto the turf at Stanford Stadium, the Huskies were riding high and sporting a new national ranking. The Huskies walked off the field that day battered and humbled.
UW will do everything in its power to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself this evening, when it takes a No. 22 national ranking into a game that pits two of the three teams that remain unbeaten in the Pacific-12 Conference’s North Division.
“It’s the biggest game that we’ve played in a long time. Everybody knows that,” said UW junior safety Justin Glenn, whose Huskies will play the seventh-ranked Cardinal.
The last time the Huskies played a game pitting two ranked teams was in the 2003 opener, when Cody Pickett and Co. led 17th-ranked UW into Columbus, Ohio, and got drubbed 28-9 by an Ohio State team that was ranked No. 2 in the country. Thirty-six ranked teams have played the Huskies since then – UW has knocked off eight of them – but never on those rare occasions when Washington was part of the national AP poll.
The Huskies went six years without being included in the poll before sneaking in at No. 24 on Sept. 20, 2009. Coming off a home upset of second-ranked USC, UW went into Stanford the following week and got hammered by Toby Gerhart and the Stanford run game. The Cardinal’s 34-14 win knocked UW out of the poll, and the Huskies remained on the outside looking in for more than two years before returning to relevance last Sunday.
But that’s only part of the motivation for UW. A win by the Huskies (5-1 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) today would not only keep UW in the Rose Bowl hunt but also assert the Huskies as a potential national power.
It seems like enough to have the UW players frothing at the mouth, but coach Steve Sarkisian has done his best to keep them from putting too much stock in this game.
“We don’t want to hype it up too much because every game’s a big game,” senior left tackle Senio Kelemete said. “Like Coach Sark says, ‘We’re climbing a mountain, and every game is another step.’ ”
The Cardinal (6-0, 3-0) have been putting teams away with body blows in the first (outscoring opponents 50-0) and third (79-6) quarters. Stanford is one of only 10 unbeatens left in college football, and it looks like a legitimate title contender – provided the heavyweights from the SEC, Big-12 and Big Ten start falling out of the picture.
When Sarkisian arrived at UW 3½ years ago, he promised that it wouldn’t take long to get the program back to where it once was. UW has a chance to take another step today, in what might be the biggest game of the Sarkisian era.