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Originally published December 24, 2010 at 6:21 PM | Page modified December 24, 2010 at 7:39 PM

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Having a practice is gift enough for this Washington football team

Washington is spending the holidays getting prepared to meet Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.

Special to The Seattle Times

THURSDAY

Nebraska vs. Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN

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SAN DIEGO — The calendar might say this is Christmas, but don't tell safety Nate Williams that.

With the sun shining after six consecutive days of rain — which by Southern California standards is abnormal — Williams and the rest of the Washington Huskies took the field Friday for their first practice at the University of San Diego in preparation for the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska on Thursday.

"It doesn't even feel like Christmas Eve right now," Williams said. "I'm from Washington, so this is the first time for me it has ever been this nice around Christmas time.

"This is also the first time I've ever been away from my family as well, but I am with my other family and I am just as happy to be here with these guys than I would be at home."

While many people will be opening presents Saturday, the Huskies will take to the field around noon for a full-pads practice.

In the evening, there will be a team dinner at which the players will receive their bowl gifts. But Williams said being able to play in the Holiday Bowl is gift enough.

"This is enough of a present for me," he said. "This is really all I need. I really couldn't ask for much more than this."

Coach Steve Sarkisian is used to the December sunshine in Southern California, having grown up about 115 miles north of San Diego in Torrance, Calif.

"I'm just excited I get to wear my sunglasses at practice," said Sarkisian, who is in his second year at UW. "The sun is out and hopefully the footing on the field dries out a bit after all the rain."

While it might not feel like Christmas for Williams, Sarkisian said he is making due.

"As a football coach, the one thing you always want is to spend Christmas Day in a hotel room," Sarkisian said. "Like I told the team, there is no better gift you can give a football player and coach than getting to practice on Christmas Day. So we'll enjoy it.

"Hopefully this becomes routine for us. Hopefully this is the norm for us to go to bowl games."

The coach added that with all that is going on — Christmas, trips to the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld — the players remain focused.

"They understand the task at hand," Sarkisian said. "We had some time off to enjoy this experience but ultimately, we are here to play a football game and it's been a business trip."

But there is still time for fun. Sarkisian said his family will be opening presents Saturday.

"Hopefully Santa (found) us at the Hyatt," he said.

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