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Originally published Friday, September 4, 2009 at 11:54 PM

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Husky Nation hopes 0-12 season will soon be a memory

As fans watched the UW football team practice on a beautiful summer night, there was hope in Husky Nation that last year's 0-12 record simply would be a bad memory.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Hearts have been broken, but there is always hope in Husky Nation.

Wednesday at Husky Stadium, on a beautiful, 75-degree summer night, about three dozen of the faithful were in the stands to watch the football practice.

You couldn't find a negative thought among them.

Oh, they still talked about last year's nightmare 0-and-12 season. But on this balmy evening, it was hope that reigned.

There was Stephanie Richardson, a program specialist at Renton Technical College.

She's not only a University of Washington grad and a fan but her son, Quinton Richardson, 20, a redshirt sophomore, is a starting cornerback.

It's just been the two of them as he grew up and played football since age 7, the mom running up and down the sidelines.

These days, the mom can hardly contain her excitement, and she didn't.

Richardson, 48, said she loved that for the entire practice, the stadium was filled with hip-hop music — with a little Jimi Hendrix and soul music thrown in. Speakers had been set up along the middle of the north sideline. Sometimes the players made little moves along to the music.

It wasn't that way during the Tyrone Willingham era, during the despairing days for Husky Nation.

"These young kids, they love music. The way to connect with young folks is with music," said the mom. "My son, he's so excited and pumped up."

So is she. You might see her right before tonight's game, in the stadium, probably by gates 19 and 21, kneeling and praying.

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"Lord, wrap your arms around them and keep them all safe from harm," she'll pray about the Huskies. She'll pray quite loudly, not caring what people nearby think. "And, Lord, at the same time give them the wits to play collectively good."

In Husky Nation, every little bit helps.

New coach Steve Sarkisian, upon whom fans pin their dreams of a return to the glory days, has made sure Husky Nation feels welcome. Practices are usually open to the public. This week's practices, however, were open only to Tyee Club members — those who have given money to UW athletics — and families of the players.

Last year, Tyee Club members could go to practices, but had to call first and get their name on a list. This year, they just show up and their name is checked off.

That might seem like a small matter, but things like that count in Husky Nation.

This week, the practices have been held in the evenings to prepare the team for their first game tonight here against powerhouse Louisiana State University.

Wednesday in the stands there was a dad, Darin Johnson, a West Seattle engineer, and his son, Axel, 4.

From top to bottom, the boy was dressed in Husky logos — the cap, shirt, gym shorts, sweatpants that were in his bag. Axel's grandfather had even made him a Jake Locker helmet.

Johnson, 38, is a 1995 UW grad, and he and his dad are 25-year season-ticket holders.

On this evening, Johnson and his son had brought in teriyaki takeout and sat in the middle of stands they had all to themselves. Axel particularly liked watching the kickers practice, the ball going high up in the air.

The son likes coming to watch the practices, even if he's not old enough to really understand football. And why not?

There is Husky Stadium, all lit up by floodlights, with its classic architectural lines back-dropped against the water. There are the bright colors inside the stadium, from the green turf to the yellow-green fluorescent goal posts to the purple-and-gold seats. There is the music with that driving beat.

There are the coaches running around with clipboards, and the players bumping each other after a good play.

The dad remembered last year's season.

"It was very sad. You just wait for the moment in each game when the wind goes out of their sails, and it becomes a blowout," said Johnson.

But this year, Johnson has hope.

Watching the team go through its drill, he said, "They're obviously better conditioned. The offensive line has lost a lot of weight."

He added: "There's a chance they could win a few games."

Then he added about tonight's game, in which LSU is a 17- to 18-point favorite: "I'm not going to bet the farm on it ... but I don't think it's impossible."

He uttered the words that Husky Nation dreams about: "I think they could win."

Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or elacitis@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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