LINCOLN, NEB. (AP) - Last year’s embarrassing Holiday Bowl loss to Washington showed 11th-ranked Nebraska what happens when a team isn’t ready to play.
Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini hopes last week’s closer-than-expected win over Fresno State reinforced the lesson because Washington (2-0) is visiting Saturday for the third game between the teams in 364 days.
“I think every now and then you need to get smacked in the face and get a wakeup call,” Pelini said. “When people are telling you how good you are, sometimes you need a reality check. In this world, you get humbled in a hurry. Last week, we were humbled.”
Nebraska (2-0) beat Fresno State 42-29, but the four-touchdown underdog rolled up 444 yards of total offense and Robbie Rouse ran for 169 for the fourth-most rushing yards by an opposing back at 88-year-old Memorial Stadium.
Rouse’s performance was reminiscent of Chris Polk’s at the Holiday Bowl. Polk gashed the Huskers for 177 yards in Washington’s 19-7 win, and he’ll be a big part of the game plan again Saturday after averaging 116 yards through two games.
“We have to be salty against him,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez burst onto the national scene as a freshman last September when he ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 150 yards and another score in a 56-21 win over the Huskies in Seattle.
The rematch in the Holiday Bowl proved to be a trap game for Nebraska.
The Huskers were favored by two touchdowns after losses in two of their previous three games, including the Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma.
Washington, meanwhile, was on a high after rolling off three straight wins to become bowl eligible.
Though 2011 first-round draft pick Jake Locker couldn’t get anything going passing for the Huskies, Nebraska couldn’t find an answer for Polk. Martinez, who played with toe and ankle injuries the second half of the season, was sacked four times and the Huskers generated only 156 yards.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said there was nothing complicated about why his team was able to avenge the September loss.
“Just overall, scheme-wise, we were a better football team,” he said. “We found our identity a bit, running the ball, playing defense. I just thought we played better. And we’re continually getting better.
“I don’t think it’s a fluke that we’re on a six-game winning streak right now.”
The Huskies needed an interception in the last minute to secure a 30-27 win over FCS Eastern Washington in their opener, and last week they got four touchdown passes from Keith Price on their way to a 40-32 win over Hawaii.