Huskies Insider Blog

Everything winding down on the eve of Holiday Bowl

Greetings from a very wet, windy and stormy San Diego. This afternoon has seen a deluge - almost hurricane-like conditions - hit the area, causing concern for what the Qualcomm Stadium field might be like Thursday for the Holiday Bowl.

No practices today; just the traditional morning coaches' press conference (Nebraska's Bo Pelini and UW's Steve Sarkisian attended and spoke), the afternoon kickoff luncheon involving both teams and coaching staffs and then team meetings and a brief walkthrough at the stadium.

Let me touch on some of the highlights of the press conference and luncheon:

** PRESS CONFERENCEI'm a huge student and believer of mannerisms, and took a long look at how Pelini and Sarkisian presented themselves in front of 60-70 media members at the downtown Omni hotel.

Pelini: Interesting guy. Comes from a tough part of Ohio, so he is not real expressive, or shows little to no emotion. He came in dressed in a tan-colored turtleneck underneath a sports jacket. He was direct. He wasn't interested in long-winded engagement.

In this format, each coach gave a statement, then took questions while the other sat and listened on the other side of the front podium.

Pelini spoke first, then listened. He rarely made eye contact with folks in the crowd. But he did show something - a smirk when Sarkisian was asked about Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez's performance in the earlier game - a 56-21 Cornhuskers rout in Seattle.

"He was really fast," Sarkisian said, "when he ran right in front of me to start the second half."

Pelini thought that was amusing.

Sarkisian: Let's face it, the second-year coach knows the drill. He knows when to look good, and most importantly, who to look the best in front of - television cameras.

He came dressed to kill - a dark-colored suit with a purple shirt underneath. He even wore a 'W' pin on the breast of his jacket.

And when his turn came to talk, he spoke at great length, with lots of energy and passion, almost as if he was trying to recruit a couple heftier media members to join the team to shore up the defensive line.

Here were some of the key points made by both coaches:

* From Pelini, about the hoopla surrounding a second meeting with the Huskies: "Everybody wants to make a big deal about that we’ve played in the regular season. I coached in the NFL for nine years, so I’m used to playing against a team twice in a season. Every time you play, you’ve got to earn it on the field."

* From Pelini, about what his staff took from the first game: "We don’t take much from it, to be honest with you. ... The teams have changed dramatically – scheme-wise, and in a lot of areas personnel-wise. Different time, different place."

* From Pelini, about the sense there is apathy among his normally-loyal Nebraska fan base about supporting this Holiday Bowl: "We’ll be well-represented out here, I promise you that. Nebraska is always well-represented. I know they said 60,000 tickets have been sold. That number, I’m sure, will go up between now and game time."

* From Pelini, about the matchups that intrigue him: "At the end of the day, games are won and lost up front. You have to play well up front on both sides of the ball, and I think that’s an area that Washington has gotten better."

* From Pelini, about the possibility of having Roy Helu, Jr., Rex Burkhead and Martinez all crack the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. Helu is already there; the other two are close: "I hope they (Martinez and Burkhead) both reach the 1,500-yard mark tomorrow night, but I don’t think that will happen."

* From Sarkisian, about the possible revenge factor: "The revenge factor, that all sounds good probably in meetings the night before a game, but at the end of the day, if you can’t stop inside zone, you can’t stop power, the revenge … it doesn’t matter."

* From Sarkisian, about Nebraska's touted secondary: "They’re really good. I’d like to have a couple of those guys on our team. ... We need to play a much more physical brand of football on the outside. We got knocked around pretty good by their (cornerbacks)."

* From Sarkisian, about Jake Locker returning to near full health: "Without a doubt, it’s been nice to see he’s actually practicing with a smile on his face now instead of grimacing after every run or throw. It is, by far and away, the healthiest I’ve seen him probably since October."

** LUNCHEON There was some fair entertainment value in the two hours or so following the coaches' presser.

Walking over to the convention center across the street, UW and Nebraska were already sqauring off - in a "Battle of the Bands" concert in one of the largest meetings room.

The luncheon was held on the grounds' largest ballroom, and had a myriad of guest speakers, including NBA Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton, who is the honorary chairman of the Holiday Bowl this week being that he is from San Diego.

His presentation, full of hyperbole, might have been the funniest thing I've seen all week. Try and find it on YouTube.

Season highlight films were shown, put together (I'm assuming) by the respective universities. Interesting that in Nebraska's reel of big plays, only two from the earlier UW game were shown. And on the Huskies' video, they showed seven different sequences (didn't know there were seven that actually qualified as 'highlights' from that blowout loss).

ESPN's Chris Fowler and Erin Andrews were at the main table, each representing and conducting a presentation/interviews with one team.

Andrews talked about Nebraska. The highlight - perhaps of the whole 90 minutes - was her one-on-one interview with Helu about teammate Terrence Moore, who reportedly was pushed into the monkey pit at the San Diego Zoo by receiver Niles Paul.

Andrews asked if the monkeys were in the vicinity, to which the normally-stoic, straight-faced Helu replied, "All the monkeys were there. We just couldn't tell with one was T-Mo."

Fowler did grill Locker about the senior's interesting December, which included an Apple Cup win, a berth to a bowl game, graduation and engagement to longtime girlfriend Lauren Greer.

"It has been a big month for me," Locker said.