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September 12, 2011

Here we go again: Huskies, Huskers Round III

Revenge was sweet for the Washington Huskies when they beat Nebraska last season in the Holiday Bowl.

It was the second meeting of the season and a complete turnaround from a 56-21 loss to those same Cornhuskers in Seattle last September.

Saturday the teams will meet for the third time in the last 12 months, something Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian says he's never experienced.

Even though each team has beaten the other once during that span, it doesn't feel like a rubber match to Sarkisian.

"The key to this game is to forget the rubber match or the revenge and all that stuff," he said, "It's how we respond in this game going on the road in a hostile environment."

Sarkisian spoke highly of the program and tradition of Nebraska football, saying that "it's what college football should be."

Nebraska's fans will be out in full force on Saturday, even if the Huskies aren't thinking about a rubber match, there is little doubt that the Nebraska fans are looking for revenge.

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini also drew high praises from Sarkisian.

"There's probably no other coach in America that I have more respect for than Bo Pelini," Sarkisian said.

Environment and coaching aside, the "physicality" that Nebraska brought to the first meeting last season is what really should have the Huskies' eyes wide open.

The Huskies completed just four passes in the game and their receivers were shut down by Nebraska's big physical cornerbacks. In the game, the Husky cornerbacks were frequently pushed completely out of the play, giving then quarterback Jake Locker nowhere to throw.

"They're a good defensive team so I'll just leave that up to Sark," quarterback Keith Price said when asked about Washington's passing game getting completely shut down last season by Nebraska.

Nebraska did have three defensive backs drafted in this year's NFL draft, including Prince Amukamara in the first found, but the secondary is still very good and could get a boost in the return of senior preseason All-American Alfonzo Dennard, who missed the Cornhuskers' first two games with a leg injury.

On the other side of the ball, the Cornhuskers (2-0) are led by quarterback Taylor Martinez, who Sarkisian raved about in his press conference.

"He's a threat obviously with his legs, but also throwing the ball," Sarkisian said, "He's probably faster than anybody on our team."

It didn't sound like Sarkisian expected to completely stop him on Saturday; rather he hopes Martinez doesn't have a huge performance.

"He's fast and we need to contain him, because if we don't he's going to outrun us," Sarkisian said. "It's pretty simple."

Nebraska's offensive style does play into the Huskies' strength in stopping the run, but Sarkisian said that doesn't mean everything will go according to plan come game time.

"When we're right yeah I would say we are really built to stop the run," Sarkisian said. "But when we aren't right it's not playing into our strengths and we learned that a year ago when we weren't right they gashed us and they gashed us bad."

The defense must be right on Saturday for the Huskies to have a chance to win. In the Holiday bowl, it was the defense that set the tone and eventually won the game.

On offense ,the Huskies will lean again on running back Chris Polk, who carried the ball 34 times for 177 yards in the Holiday Bowl.

Polk, who has run for 100 yards in four consecutive games, should expect to see a healthy number of carries again on Saturday. When asked if Polk was ready for 30-plus carries, Sarkisian said. "without a doubt."

The Huskies have their work cut out for them on Saturday against the No. 10 team in the country. Winning in Lincoln isn't easy. The last time the Huskies traveled to Nebraska was in 1998, a game that Nebraska won 55-7.

The Huskies (2-0) will roll into Saturday's game riding the fourth longest winning streak in the country at six games, but as 17.5-point underdogs the Huskies will have to play nearly perfect football if they expect to get to 3-0, something they haven't done since 2001, a year they went 11-1 and won the Rose Bowl.

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals


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