Just over three years ago, the University of Washington was coming off one of the worst seasons ever recorded by a Division-I NCAA football program. In 2008, the final year of Tyrone Willingham’s reign of terror on Montlake, the Dawgs went 0-11 before embarrassing themselves further by losing the only game they absolutely needed to win – the Apple Cup – against an equally dreadful Washington State Cougar squad. The following year, UW had a new coaching staff and a new set of expectations, but all the same players. We opened our season by welcoming #11 LSU into Husky Stadium for a night game, and while we did end up losing, the final 8-point deficit was far closer than any radio personality or ESPN talking head could have imagined from a team with as much pathetic stink lingering in the recent past as the Washington Huskies had. That 11th-ranked LSU team thought they could walk all over the Dawgs, but our fans made a lot of noise, our team stood strong, and we valiantly gave them a fight they weren’t expecting.
Flash forward three years to this Saturday, and our unranked Washington Huskies led by quarterback (and odds-on favorite for the Heisman of our collective hearts) Keith Price, will head to Baton Rouge to take on LSU once more. I did not set the stage with the story of UW’s 2009 season-opening loss to LSU as some kind of harbinger of doom, but rather as a message of hope. Both UW and LSU are now much different teams, each notably stronger than they were three years ago. Yes, another loss to LSU this weekend would hurt, but I’d like to remind you what happened two weeks after that loss to LSU back in the 2009 season. The Washington Huskies took the field against the 3rd-ranked USC Trojans and beat them with a last-second Erik Folk field goal, capping a football game and field rush (pictured below) that became one of the most beloved memories of all my years as a collegiate sports fan.
Did I already mention that USC team was ranked #3 in the nation the week we beat them? Did I mention LSU is also ranked #3 in the nation THIS week? Sure, it would be a fallacy to argue that simply because UW beat a 3rd-ranked USC team in 2009 they will beat 3rd-ranked LSU this weekend, just like it would be inaccurate to argue that just because the Huskies lost to an 11th-ranked LSU team in 2009 they will automatically lose to a higher-ranked LSU team this weekend. Sports do not work like that, and such simple transitive qualities rarely apply in games that are often decided by the smallest moments and most (seemingly) miniscule factors. What these things do illustrate, though, is the reason we watch – the hope that something incredible will take place. In sports, like in life, there will always be experts offering opinions (23.5 point underdogs!), but once the whistle blows we all know the result can only be decided on the field.
So fellow Husky fans, as we head into what the entire nation has predetermined will be a slaughter, I’d like to remind you that amazing, shocking, and unpredictable things do happen. For my sake, and for the sake of Husky fans everywhere, I hope those amazing, shocking, and unpredictable things take place for the Huskies at LSU this Saturday. Those rare moments are the reason sports fans so deeply enjoy such seemingly trivial competitions, and it’s the reason I have and will always cheer for the University of Washington Huskies. No matter how dark things get (and trust me, 0-12 was plenty dark), there is always that glimmer of hope and that knowledge that on a given day anything can happen. I have believe good things will happen for the Dawgs on this trip to Baton Rouge, and I hope every fan sporting purple and gold this weekend feels the same way.