SEATTLE (AP) - Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu smiled when asked about Nebraska, so much so his mouth guard with the words “big daddy” on it showed.
Ta'amu anchored Washington’s defensive effort during the 2010 Holiday Bowl against the Cornhuskers that resulted in a 19-7 Huskies victory.
After allowing 56 points in a Week 3 game against Nebraska last season, Washington buckled down defensively in the rematch.
Now the 11th-ranked Cornhuskers and Huskies get ready for a third meeting in less than 12 months on Saturday in Lincoln.
A large reason for the turnaround between the first two games was Ta'amu’s play.
During the first game, Ta'amu assisted on two tackles and had a half-sack. Nebraska ran for 383 yards.
“They embarrassed us in front of our fans,” Ta'amu said. “I want to do the same to them, hopefully. We’ll see.”
Though his totals in the Holiday Bowl weren’t much better than in the first game _ two solo tackles, a sack and fumble recovery _ his influence increased.
He picked up a fumble by Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead on the first possession of the game and returned it 14 yards to the Nebraska 21. That set up the Huskies’ opening touchdown.
Ta'amu pushed through the middle on a third down in the first quarter to pressure Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. He did the same on the next series.
Early in the third quarter, Ta'amu rumbled through four Nebraska players, wrapped his arms around Martinez and sent him to the ground.
His dominance peaked in the fourth quarter. All-Big 12 first-team lineman Ricky Henry held Ta'amu in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
Ta'amu worked most of the day against Huskers center Mike Caputo and guard Henry. Henry graduated, but Caputo is again Nebraska’s starting center. He’ll be locked up with Ta'amu on Saturday afternoon for the third time.
“Feels like they’re in our conference now,” Ta'amu joked.
Ta'amu (6 feet 3, 337 pounds) is built to stop the run. But he has been quiet the first two weeks of the season when facing pass-first teams Eastern Washington and Hawaii.
He also broke his right hand in fall camp. On Saturday, he will wear only a splint after dealing with a cast the first two weeks.
That will help Ta'amu and the Huskies face a big shift in offensive style. Washington’s first two opponents attempted 114 total passes. Nebraska has thrown just 46 in two weeks.
“It’s a whole different ball game now,” Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. “We are playing some huge offensive linemen (and a team) that runs the ball. Totally different football game.”
Holt said Ta'amu and fellow senior tackle Everrette Thompson are important this week. The upside for each is being part of a defensive line that remains intact from a year ago.
That gives them familiarity with Nebraska, which according to Ta'amu has not changed in two important areas.
“Quarterback is still fast,” Ta'amu said. “(Offensive) linemen still big, still huge.”
Nebraska is a large favorite heading into this weekend, as it was prior to the Holiday Bowl. Some suggested that the Huskers weren’t ready in the previous meeting.
“Everybody always says that that game, the Holiday Bowl, they weren’t ready,” Ta'amu said. “But I feel that everybody’s ready, especially in a bowl game. But this game is a game for us as a team to prove that we’re going to continue where we left off last year.”