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Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Washington faces Cornhuskers for 3rd time in a year

What awaits Washington in Nebraska? A team and crowd hoping to get back at the Huskies for UW's 19-7 upset win in the Holiday Bowl.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

UW @ Nebraska, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 4 or ESPN

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After the sluggish opener against Eastern Washington, Steve Sarkisian took no chances making sure the Washington Huskies would be ready to play Hawaii.

Washington's coach began last week with a speech in which players said he "laid down the law" and never let up through a series of intense practices that followed.

No such external measures figure to be needed this week, however.

Instead, the mere thought of traveling to Nebraska and playing the Cornhuskers for the third time in a year will be enough.

Especially knowing what awaits — a team and crowd hoping to get back at the Huskies for UW's 19-7 upset win in the Holiday Bowl.

"Hostile environment," UW linebacker Cort Dennison said, when asked what he expects in Lincoln. "They are going to bring it."

The game, which kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Seattle time, will serve as a de facto rubber match in the series. Nebraska beat UW 56-21 in Seattle last September.

"Winner takes all, right?" UW senior defensive tackle Everrette Thompson said.

Certainly, the victor may view it that way.

More tangibly, the game will provide yet another litmus test on exactly where the Huskies are in this young season.

Nebraska marks the "A" in the "A-B-C" nonconference schedule for the Huskies, and UW will obviously need to play its best game to get the win.

A 40-32 victory over Hawaii left the Huskies feeling more confident.

"We've just got to keep going forward and building on this momentum we've got right now," Dennison said. "We all realize how good of a football team we are."

There was lots of external doubting of that after the close shave against Eastern, and the Hawaii win didn't erase every question, especially in regards to Washington's defense.

Washington ranks last in the nation in pass defense at 403 yards allowed per game and is 102nd in total defense at 446 yards allowed per game.

Nebraska will present a different challenge than the two pass-happy teams — the 114 passes thrown against the Huskies are 18 more than any other team has faced.

The Cornhuskers are trying to throw more this season with sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez healthy.

But 10th-rated Nebraska remains led by its running attack, which has averaged 224 yards in wins over Chattanooga (40-7) and Fresno State (42-29).

Nebraska needed every yard it could get to stave off the Bulldogs, who like Hawaii are a member of the WAC, as the game was in doubt until the final minutes. That left Nebraska coach Bo Pelini making some postgame comments that sounded like those Sarkisian uttered last week.

"Front to back, we didn't play good enough," Pelini said. "I think it will be a good wake-up call for them."

That may sound like a daunting atmosphere for the Huskies to enter this week, especially the young players on defense.

The game will be the first on the road for young starters such as strong safety Sean Parker and linebacker John Timu.

Defensive coordinator

Nick Holt said he was confident that dealing with the surroundings won't be an issue this week, saying, "I think our young guys will handle it good. I really do."

Notes

• The Huskies got 12 points in this week's Associated Press poll, but all came from one voter — Ray Ratto, a longtime columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and now with Comcast Sports Bay Area. Ratto had UW 14th on his ballot.

• Washington's six-game winning streak dating to last season is tied for fourth in the nation.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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