It was supposed to bring chaos to the region, with a crushing crowd around Montlake, citywide gridlock, highway-traffic back-ups 50 miles in three directions and, worse yet, a few hours of the grinning visage of Rick Neuheisel.
But the University of Washington football team’s version of Black Thursday (Nov. 18) came and went, and nothing particularly bad happened . . . unless you were Rick Neuheisel.
Actually something very good did go up for the UCLA coach struggling to keep: a) his team bowl-eligible and b) perhaps his job. During their second possession the Bruins cruised 92 yards on 13 (mostly running) plays, taking 6:42 off the clock and going up 7-0.
The next, well, the final 24 went up for the University of Washington Huskies. Hey, Neuheisel: SCOREBOARD, BABY!
When last he coached at Montlake, many of the current Husky players were in grade school. Many of them probably don’t know about the team’s past transgressions, chronicled in Scoreboard, Baby, a book, by a pair of Seattle Times investigative reporters, that borrows for the title a bygone, triumphal Neuheisel post-game remark. The problems a decade ago, of course, led to Slick Rick's dismissal from UW and, alas, his successful lawsuit settlement with his former employer in 2005.
It was enough Thursday in front of the scattering of fans gathered under clammy conditions for Senior Night that Husky personnel, sporting the Johnny Cash look for the black-themed evening, concentrated on their own game. The 24-7 spread represented the most commanding performance since Sept. 11, when the UW dispatched Syracuse 41-20. It left the 4-6 Dawgs in the position (or predicament) of still having the potential to reach bowl eligibility. That would require wins at Cal and Washington State, so coach Steve Sarkisian and others have toned down public pronouncements about post-season destinations.
There was enough to talk about in the aftermath that not only spoke well of this season's seniors but offered promise about the program’s future Linebacker Mason Foster, in his final home appearance, led a mostly imposing defense with 14 more tackles, adding to prodigious numbers that continue to get the attention of pro scouts.
Jake Locker, still with a broken rib cage that would’ve kept many in easy chairs for the evening, showed steady, if not flashy, leadership. He ran for a touchdown but passed for just 10 completions for 68 yards, adding an interception and several balls that sailed away from open receivers.
But why throw when your marquee running-back tandem is good for 245 yards? That Chris Polk (138 yards) and Jesse Callier (107) between them have five years of eligibility left gives the Dawgs an obvious ongoing ground-game advantage for an offense that won't have the benefit of the multi-dimensional Locker much longer.
Nor will the team be suiting up at apparently crumbling Husky Stadium beyond next year's Nov. 5 date with Oregon. Five hours before game time the UW Board of Regents cleared the way for the quarter-billion-dollar stadium-renovation plan. It means the Dawgs will play next year's Apple Cup game and the entire 2012 season at Qwest Field. The tab is to be paid by private donors but the bulk of the up-front money is to come from a UW building-fund loan.
Boosters, in any case, are gleeful about a stadium re-make, even while it comes at a time of nearly unprecedented state fiscal crises.
Perhaps the best way to improve upon the September, 2013, christening of the rebuilt stadium would be to have the Huskies once again host UCLA, though for many the fun of what possibly would be dubbed Black Saturday might be spoiled if by then the Bruins no longer are led by Rick Neuheisel