PASADENA, Calif. — The last time the Washington Huskies won at the Rose Bowl, they won the Rose Bowl.
Yes, that Jan. 1, 2001, triumph over Purdue was UW’s most recent victory at this storied venue near Los Angeles.
To find the most recent win as a true road team over homestanding UCLA, travel back to 1995, when Damon Huard was the Huskies’ starting quarterback, the Kingdome was still standing, and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men were dominating the Billboard Top 40 chart.
There are freshman students at the University of Washington who weren’t alive the last time the Huskies beat the Bruins here. And for coach Steve Sarkisian’s team to prove that this program truly is trending upward, they’ll have to snap that losing streak with a 6 p.m. game Friday against 13th-ranked UCLA.
The Rose Bowl Game, of course, is where the Huskies want to be in the foreseeable future. But for now, they’ll simply settle for their first win at the historic stadium in nearly 13 years.
“To get a taste of the venue in the regular season at some point in their career I think is really motivating,” Sarkisian said earlier this week. “Especially if you go out and you play well.”
That’s the kicker. The Huskies are 1-2 on the road this season,
beating Illinois before a close loss at Stanford and getting blown off the field at Arizona State.
There might be some extra motivation from the 30-some Southern California natives on UW’s roster, many of whom will be playing in front of more friends and family than usual.
Sophomore receiver Jaydon Mickens, who played at L.A.’s Dorsey High School, said he’s hoping to have “a little student section there for myself,” and that “it’s going to be a fun show.”
The bigger-picture view is even more important. A victory could change the tenor of the Huskies’ season. It would be their seventh win, a benchmark that could be surpassed with wins next week at Oregon State or the following week against Washington State.
A loss would bring the same kind of criticism the Huskies – and Sarkisian – have received for years: they can’t beat good teams on the road. They’re a seven-win team, nothing more. They can’t win the games that matter.
That makes this one matter a little more, especially given UCLA’s national ranking and unbeaten home record.
“It’s real special to see my parents and talk to some longtime friends I haven’t seen in a while,” said UW senior safety Sean Parker, a Los Angeles native. “But we’re going down there to play a game.”
And playing at the Rose Bowl for the first time?
“I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it before,” Parker said. “I just haven’t played on it. This will be my first time. But I’m poised. Just ready to play.”
The Huskies better be. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is a strong passer who also leads the Bruins in rushing, the kind of player who could give the Huskies’ defense fits if they don’t figure out a way to defend him better than they did Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, a similar dual-threat guy.
The teams seem to match up well statistically, and, as Sarkisian said, they possess similar numbers in some of the most important categories – turnover margin, third-down offense and defense and red-zone efficiency, to name a few.
“I think these are two good football teams that are getting ready to play,” Sarkisian said. “I think in these types of games, execution is paramount. I think the football is paramount, and then ultimately the team that can make the play, make the play at the critical moment, I think is going to be vitally important.”
Not just to winning, but to the Huskies’ progression as a program.
WASHINGTON (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) at No. 13 UCLA (7-2, 4-2)
6 p.m., Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: UCLA leads, 38-30-2. Washington won the last meting, 24-7, at Husky Stadium in 2010.
What to watch: Washington’s 53-24 loss to Arizona State on Oct. 19 has become somewhat of a rallying point for the Huskies. As in: they don’t ever want to let it happen again. This will be UW’s first road foray since that disastrous afternoon in the desert, so it will be interesting to see if the Huskies come out with more energy and speed. A prime-time start under the lights and a national audience on ESPN2 should aid in that effort. But UCLA is unbeaten at home this season. ... Bishop Sankey is 390 yards shy of UW’s single-season rushing record of 1,695 and ranks third in the country with 145 yards rushing per game. A strong performance against the Bruins, who rank 80th nationally in rushing defense, could put Sankey one game away from breaking the record.
The pick: UCLA, 31-27.
17 Keith Price QB 6-1 202 Sr.
The Compton, Calif., native will play in front of friends and family. This game could be essential in establishing his legacy as a UW quarterback.
20 Kevin King S 6-2 178 Fr.
Made his first career start last week against Colorado, and he could see significant action again this week if Will Shamburger still can’t play.
22 Josh Shirley DE 6-3 232 Jr.
Against young UCLA offensive line, pass-rushing specialist could benefit by putting pressure on Bruins’ QB.
88 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE 6-6 276 Jr.
Caught three passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against Colorado last week. With Kasen Williams out, could see more targets.
11 Anthony Barr LB 6-4 248 Sr.
One of nation’s best defenders blends speed and strength to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
17 Brett Hundley QB 6-3 222 So.
Strong, accurate arm but also leads the Bruins in rushing. The kind of QB who requires constant attention.
31 Myles Jack LB/RB 6-1 225 Fr.
Former Bellevue standout solid at LB all season, but six-carry, 120-yard debut as RB last week turned heads around the country.
56 Xavier Su’a-Filo LT 6-3 305 Jr.
Experienced offensive lineman who anchors a young, inexperienced group up front.
firstname.lastname@example.org@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple