This is a day when the Washington Huskies will look back.
The university will look back to the 1960 season when the Huskies may have fielded the best team in the nation.And the players will look back to last season, when they might have been one snap away from upsetting one of the nation’s best.
That team, No. 1-ranked Southern California, will be the opponent again this evening at Husky Stadium.The Huskies will play in 1960 replica uniforms – jerseys that are more deep blue than purple, with rounded gold numbers, gold pants and solid gold helmets with no “W” on the sides.
At halftime, members of the 1960 team will be honored and a banner will be raised, acknowledging their claim to that season’s national championship – bestowed by the Helms Foundation but never fully recognized by the university until ow.
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But while Washington celebrates its second national title, USC is aiming for its 12th.These Trojans are considered among the best of an ongoing dynasty that includes five straight seasons of national top-four finishes,
BCS bowl appearances and Pacific 10 Conference titles.
“It looks to me like they are even more aggressive up front on defense than they were a year ago,” UW coach Tyrone Willingham said.
“I think the linebackers are pretty much kind of the same complement as a year ago. I think in the secondary, they have improved in that area. The defense, I think is maybe a better defense than they were a year ago.”
The USC offense is led by quarterback John David Booty, who threw for four touchdowns last week, and a half-dozen tailbacks who could start for most other teams. The Trojans have the 10th best rushing offense in the country, and the eighth-best rushing defense.
They have swept their first three games by an average score of 45-18.
Meanwhile, UW dropped to .500 last week and is trying to find a way out of a two-game losing steak while plunging deeper into the heart of a difficult schedule.
“The teams we’re facing are better and better,” Willingham said. “It’s steadily climbing, and now we think we probably play the ultimate team on our schedule.”
Washington players and coaches spent much of this week looking back to 2006 because the Huskies entered that game as certain an underdog as they are today. And yet, Washington battled the Trojans evenly until the final whistle.
They are haunted by what might have happened if the referees had not whistled the game over just before the snap that would have offered one final chance at victory.
Instead, the team was forced to walk out of the LA Coliseum with the scoreboard glowing: USC 26, Washington 20.
It is a frustration they will try to turn in their favor today.
“I think that’s a big confidence boost, the fact that we could have or should have beaten these guys last year, given a couple of seconds,” senior receiver Anthony Russo said. “But they’re the No.1 team in the nation, they’re definitely a good team, and they’re still on a roll, so we’ve got to work.”
The Huskies stayed close with the Trojans last season behind the dual threat of quarterback Isaiah Stanback. And USC coach Pete Carroll seems to believe redshirt freshman Jake Locker will pose as much of a challenge or more.
“That was such a tremendous threat that Isaiah brought and we thought maybe that would go away, but they’ve really rebounded well,” Carroll said. “There’s a lot of guys in that offense, but Jake just draws so much attention because he does so much, he’s such a big part of it. I’ve always thought that Louis (Rankin) is a good player and a good runner, and Russo’s good, but Jake, I’m just blown away by how good he is.”
The Huskies also have incentive to impress the three-dozen or so members of the 1960 team expected to attend the game.
“Those guys did a tremendous job back in the day,” senior cornerback Roy Lewis said. “They were an inspiration and are kind of like mentors as far as this program is concerned. It’s an honor to go out and play in front of these guys and let them know their legacy isn’t forgotten.”