The historical venue and blinding red fans might be new to the University of Washington football team, but today’s opponent certainly will not be.
When the Huskies renew acquaintances with Nebraska in a road game that begins at 12:30 p.m., it might actually seem like just another game against an annual rival.
“It feels like they’re in our conference now,” UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu said. “We’ve played against them three times within a year.”
What makes this meeting different, of course, is the venue. Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., is one of the oldest football stadiums in the country and gives the Huskies another chance to prove they’re over the road woes that plagued the program in coach Steve Sarkisian’s first year at UW.
A win at Nebraska, against the 10th-ranked team in the country, would almost certainly put the Huskies back in the rankings for the first time since late September 2009. The nationally televised game on ABC could be one of those put-the-program- back-on-the-map performances if the Huskies (2-0) can find a way to upset the Cornhuskers (2-0) for the second time in nine months.
“It would be a big statement,” said Ta’amu, who starred in a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska after struggling in a 56-21 loss to the Cornhuskers 364 days ago. “They came in our stadium and whooped us all over the field (last September), so it would be nice to do that to them on their field.”
No one thinks it will be easy. Although Nebraska’s star-laden defense has struggled at times in the Cornhuskers’ wins over Tennessee-Chattanooga and Fresno State, Nebraska is still heavy favorite this week. The Huskies struggled to shake smaller teams in their first two games of the season, and Nebraska has the size and athleticism to turn the game into a blowout if UW isn’t on point.
That’s what happened when the Huskies hosted the Cornhuskers last September, when Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez rushed for 137 of his team’s 383 yards and scored three TDs in the 56-21 win.
“They embarrassed us in front of our fans,” Ta’amu said, “and I want to do that to them – hopefully.”
The Huskies lost 55-7 the last time UW played in Nebraska – for whatever that’s worth – and the Huskies haven’t been 3-0 since the 2001 season that followed their last trip to the Rose Bowl.
It’s been a slow, steady decline for UW football since 2001, and yet a win today could put the Huskies back on the map.
“I think this could be a game that would definitely help us out,” UW wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “Nebraska’s a good team, they’ve got a great defense, so this is definitely a game that could do that for us.”