Friday, September 16, 2011

Washington Huskies take on Nebraska Cornhuskers for round three!

By Kshell

This week the Washington Huskies(2-0) will travel to face the #10 Nebraska Cornhuskers(2-0) in a highly anticpated game which will air on ABC at 12:30 p.m. pacific time. This matchup is unique because this will be the third time in a calender year that these two teams have faced each other. Like an NFL division teams who meet up in the postseason there won't be an surprises this Saturday as both teams should know the other team pretty well. These two programs have had a great deal of history when playing against each other. In the 1990's these schools squared off four times which I wrote about last year which includes quotes from players who played in each of those four games. These schools have plenty of tradition and great respect for each other why this game brings up so many special memories. Well last season these teams played twice which had opposite results which should make round three even more interesting.

In the first meeting the Nebraska Cornhuskers invaded Seattle with freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez winning in a blowout 56-21 over the overmatched Huskies. The national attention that day was how poorly Huskies quarterback Jake Locker played. What also was the story was the play of Martinez that day making his first career road start. Martinez in that win was 7-11(63.6%) passing for 150 yards with a touchdown. He also ran 19 times for 137 yards(7.2 YPC) with three touchdowns including an 80 yard touchdown run to open up the second half. The Cornhuskers had three separate guys go over 100 yards rushing on that game as they ran for 383(7.1 YPC) yards against the Huskies young defense. This year Martinez in two games is playing like he did that day. He is 21-43(48.8%) passing for 335 yards with one touchdown to two interceptions. He is leading his team in rushing with 272 yards rushing(8.0 YPC) with five touchdowns on the season. For the Huskies to have any chance to win this game they must contain Martinez rushing much like they did in their Holiday Bowl win last year.

When the two teams met in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl many expected the Cornhuskers to destroy the Huskies once again. Instead the Huskies shocked everyone by defeating Nebraska 19-7 to win the Holiday Bowl and clinch a winning season. The Huskies in that game were led by Chris Polk who ran for 176 yards(5.2 YPC) with a touchdown. It was the Huskies who punched the Cornhuskers in the mouth this game outrushing the Cornhuskers 268-91. The Cornhuskers averaged just 2.2 YPC on the day a far cry from the game in Seattle. Nobody represented that more than Martinez who was Tommie Frazier like in Seattle but in the Holiday Bowl ran for negative 20 yards on 14 carries while throwing an interception. The Huskies defense recorded five sacks that day against Nebraska meanwhile the Nebraska defense didn't sack the Huskies once or force any turnovers. The Huskies had four punts which saw three land inside the 20. Steve Sarkisian had a Don James type of victory which saw his offense control the clock but do nothing flashy, play great special teams and have his defense shut down the opposition. The Huskies won't be having Jake Locker who didn't play that well in either game although the second game he was a nice game manager making plays with his legs. This year the Huskies will now be the team traveling on the road with the inexperienced quarterback.

When the Huskies play in Lincoln, Nebraska this Saturday that will be only the second career start on the road for sophomore quarterback Keith Price. Price has played in a few hostile situations before having thrown the go ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter on the road at USC. Then Price made his first career start at #1 ranked Oregon Ducks in Autzen stadium which is one of the loudest stadiums in the nation. Price is a guy I recently did a feature piece on where I talked about how Price has overcame many of doubters. For the season Price has completed 35-50 passes(70.0%) for 417 yards with seven touchdowns to one interception. Unlike last year the Huskies actually have a tight end threat in Austin Seferian-Jenkins who has four receptions on the year for 101 yards with a touchdown. Price will try to do a better job of finding Jermaine Kearse who has just three receptions on the year but two of which are touchdowns. Dating back to the last two years Kearse now has 22 touchdowns in his last 27 games. The Huskies like they did in the Holiday Bowl will lean on Chris Polk who has ran for 227 yards(5.0 YPC) with a touchdown on the season. If the Huskies can get Polk going then Martinez will be standing on the sidelines much like last years Holiday Bowl game.

In conclusion, the Huskies and Cornhuskers are squaring off the third time in a calender year. There should be no surprises as both teams have seen each other at their best and at their worst. The Huskies are hoping to bottle up Martinez and control the clock with Polk like they did in their Holiday Bowl victory. Meanwhile the Cornhuskers are hoping to thrive off Husky mistakes and have Martinez run wild like the blowout in Seattle last season. The Cornhuskers are favored by 17 points in this game as they are a top 10 team in the nation playing at home. The Huskies are a program just like that have won six games in a row although outscoring their opponents by just 50(8.3 ppg over opponent) during that stretch. If the Huskies can win this game due to this being a non conference road game on ABC this would be the biggest win of the Sarkisian era. Sarkisian has proven with two wins over USC and a win over Nebraska he can pull off the upset as head coach. When the Huskies and Cornhuskers play there is so much history and tradition one can't help it if they are overly excited. Should be interesting to see which team plays more like they did in their victory last season. This could be a program defining win for Sarkisan while the Cornhuskers have had this game circled for months. Should be a great atmosphere this saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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