December 6, 2010

Huskies go from doubters to believers

It was a typical December afternoon in the Palouse on Saturday - freezing temperatures, snow on the ground, and a bitter wind chill factor that should have kept everyone indoors.

But that didn't stop more than 30,000 fans from packing into Martin Stadium and creating a sea of crimson and gray mixed with purple and gold for the long awaited Apple Cup.

The anticipation and excitement for this year's Apple Cup was much higher than in previous years, as the teams on the field had more than just pride to play for.

After several disappointing losing seasons, the Huskies came into the game one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2002.

The Huskies were able to use their superior running game (315 yards on the ground), and some big plays late in the game to hold off WSU by a score of 35-28.

With the win, the Huskies (6-6) found out Sunday that they will play in the Holiday Bowl in a rematch against No. 17 Nebraska (10-3).

Only two years ago, the Huskies endured a winless season, including an overtime loss in the Apple Cup, but this victory, and the long-awaited opportunity to participate in postseason play showed just how far the Huskies have come.

Coach Steve Sarkisian spoke Saturday night in Pullman about the first time he met the team when he arrived at Washington.

Sarkisian described a grim atmosphere and commented on the lack of UW gear being worn by the players, and said the room was filled with, "A lot of guys wearing hoodies with their heads down."

Sarkisian went on to say: "The first thing we wanted to accomplish (was) to make sure we're proud Huskies."

Nick Holt, defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, added: "We had had to keep changing the culture, keep getting better, get kids believing … It just shows you how far our team has come."

All the way to a bowl date in San Diego.

"It's about time," Holt said. "This place needs to be going to bowl games."

This Apple Cup victory probably meant the most to senior quarterback Jake Locker, who made the offseason decision to turn down the NFL Draft and return to the Huskies for one more season.

"The moment Jake decided to come back - this is what he was envisioning - this moment," Sarkisian said.

Locker soaked it all in Saturday night in Pullman.

"I don't really have words to explain how I feel right now, I'm so proud to be a part of this team, a part of this program," Locker said.

"I love these guys. I wouldn't want to play with anybody else."

The Huskies will take these warm feelings to San Diego as they prepare to play a Nebraska team that has already beaten them 56-21 this season.

The way they were acting, and from how far they've come this season and in two years since Sarkisian took over, the Huskies seem to be conveying the belief that anything is possible in San Diego.



 

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