I came for the celebration that never happened.
No, never in my wildest fantasies did I expect the University of Washington to take down the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.
But after watching UW quarterback Jake Locker’s "excessive celebration" penalty and ensuing one-point loss to BYU a week prior – and the resulting national furor from players, fans, coaches and (in particular) radio jockeys bemoaning the call and the game rule – I wanted to see if the anointed Husky savior was going to make a big deal of his next touchdown.
Plus, I figured, how many times am I going to get a chance to shoot on the field at Husky Stadium?
A few months ago, my father received a pair of field passes to photograph Saturday’s ballgame, thanks to an incident at a previous Apple Cup. Back in November, stadium staff refused to let him in with his "professional" digital camera, even though plenty of fans brought in cameras just as "professional" as his. A quick letter to the athletic director turned some heads, and – voila! – we’re rubbing elbows with the photo pros from the Seattle Times, P-I, and the Tacoma News Trib.
First off, for those who’ve never been to Husky Stadium, it’s rather loud. For those who get a chance to be on the field in a big game – this one was on national TV, thanks to the Sooners’ No. 3 ranking – this place is absolutely deafening. It’s the kind of loud that’s disarming and energizing at the same time.
For a half, the place felt like the center of the football universe. After roaming the grounds shooting pictures of tailgate parties, my dad and I made our way to the field. We mingled with dudes who had three or four cameras slung around their necks, camera lenses the size of my leg. Then we tried to not get run over by the ESPN camera trucks that patrolled the sidelines or get in front of the mass of TV cameras. We figured the biggest danger was players running out of bounds into us; turns out getting hit by a camera boom was much more likely.
Our collective awe wore off pretty quickly, though, and it became simply a football game, albeit a lopsided one. Oklahoma took advantage of two key Husky fumbles and made a 34-0 halftime lead look painfully easy. Either the Sooners are that good or UW is that bad. I should have known the Dawgs were in trouble when the most hopeful comment UW coach Tyrone Willingham could come up with in the pregame pep rally was something about "measured improvement." Way to get ’em fired up, Ty!
It was already 41-0 in the early part of the second half when the moment finally came. Rolling to his left, Locker juked a pair of defenders, shrugged off a receiver and bolted right at the corner of the end zone. Fortunately, I was standing in perfect position, tucked neatly in the northeast corner of the field. I felt certain all 6-foot 3-inches and 220 pounds of Jake Locker was going to run me over. I snapped few shots as he crossed the goal and, like thousands there at Husky Stadium, waited for the celebration, an emphatic, showboating statement to those PAC-10 referees whom commentators roasted in the national media.
But it didn’t come. Locker, ever the world-conscious athlete (save those few seconds against BYU), simply held on to the ball, accepted a few hugs from teammates, and handed the pigskin to the nearest referee.
This time around, of course, there was little Locker could celebrate. Down five touchdowns, Locker knew this game was embarrassingly over.
My dad and I spent most of the second half getting shots of the Husky players getting pummeled on the field, shots of them bumming out on the bench, some goofball shots of the Husky and Sooner mascots, and wondering aloud if this was Willingham’s last game.
Of all things, I spotted a few Sequim fans at the game in the fourth quarter: Sequim High students Ary Webb, Evan Hill and friends were among the diehards who watched the contest to the bitter end, while SHS grad Shane Dinius, now a UW student, came down to the field to say hi.
That’s how empty the stadium was.
Final score: Oklahoma 55, UW 14.
So I didn’t get my Jake Locker celebration shot, nor did I get to see a historic upset of a nationally ranked powerhouse. But I did get to spend a sunny afternoon wandering around Husky Stadium with my dad, take pictures of future NFL players (the ones in maroon) and taste a bit of the madness surrounding NCAA Division I football. Now there’s a reason to celebrate.
Michael Dashiell is a
Sequim Gazette reporter. He can be reached at 683-3311 ext. 113 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.