The blue skies overhead and the clear blue waters of Lake Washington next to Husky Stadium captivated the regional television audience.
ABC and ESPN piped in picturesque shots of Seattle's skyline and tight close-ups of purple-and-gold face-painted fans to millions.
This was the Washington image Coach Jim Lambright wanted America to see. The return of the Purple Storm, just as the UW media guide proclaims.
With 400 members of the media - the most ever for a Husky game - watching, the second-ranked Huskies were to cement their position among the game's elite and reverse past disappointments in big games.
Everything looked so good until the kickoff, when Washington's Jerome Pathon went streaking through a gaping hole in the Nebraska kickoff coverage. For a second, it appeared as if he would go all the way, then Cornhusker Brandon Harrison hit Pathon so hard, the starting receiver missed the first offensive play.
A wounded Husky. It was a sign of things to come.
Pathon returned, finishing with a career-best performance. But he did it without quarterback Brock Huard and inside linebacker Marques Hairston, who were knocked out of the game.
Their absence made Nebraska's task easier. However, the 27-14 Washington defeat might not have changed had they remained.
Seventh-ranked Nebraska was too good, just as Notre Dame was last year. Just as Ohio State was in '95. And Michigan in the '93 Rose Bowl.
Devastating in the Pac-10 Conference, Washington struggles with the nation's best teams that play power football.
In the past, Washington's defense made stars out of Irish running back Autry Denson, Buckeye Eddie George and Wolverine Tyrone Wheatley.
Yesterday, it was a trio of Huskers named Makovicka, Green and Frost who starred and ran for a combined 355 yards.
The Cornhuskers had no trouble moving the ball on the ground against what had been the nation's best defense against the run. Washington held Brigham Young and San Diego State to a combined minus-5 yards, but against the Husker option and power attack, it was outmuscled.
The Huskies got too much production from free safety Tony Parrish (career-high 17 tackles) and rover Nigel Burton (11) and too little from three interior linemen, who combined for just seven tackles.
"The line of scrimmage is a war," Lambright said. "If you can't win it, you're not going to win very much."
The Huskies couldn't stop the Huskers from rolling up 384 rushing yards, the second-highest total in two decades, surpassed only by Notre Dame's 397 yards last year.
Fullback Joel Makovicka pummeled the middle of the UW defense. He averaged nearly 11 yards on 12 carries and broke numerous tackles on his way to a career-best 129 yards.
I-back Ahman Green got the bulk of the carries (29) and ran for 129 yards and a 4-yard touchdown before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a sore shoulder.
But Scott Frost caused the most damage to Washington, silencing talk of a quarterback controversy with his near-perfect execution of Nebraska's option offense.
He scored touchdowns on runs of 34 and 30 yards, finishing with 97 yards on 18 carries, and had 88 yards passing.
"We were all kind of surprised," said Frost, a transfer who spearheaded a Husky loss three years ago while playing for Stanford. "We really took the ball and jammed it down their throats on the first couple of drives."
The outcome was decided early. The Huskers scored on three of their first four drives. They led 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
Nebraska defensive end Grant Wistrom put Huard on the sideline at the end of the first quarter. Wistrom hit Huard just after the quarterback released a pass.
The Huskers kept running back Rashaan Shehee (11 carries, 28 yards) bottled up.
Without two of their best playmakers, Pathon and freshman quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo kept Washington in the game.
"I just did my part," said Pathon, who finished with 195 yards on five catches, his third straight career-high 100-plus outing. "I took advantage of the opportunities I had. I just wish I could have done more."
Tuiasosopo (12 of 22, 270 yards, two touchdowns) was nervous early, but on his third play - the 15th of his college career - he lofted a 41-yard pass to Pathon. He was best when scrambling.
His first touchdown was an ill-advised pass into triple coverage to tight end Cam Cleeland. His second, a 2-yard pass to H-back Mike Reed, cut Washington's deficit to seven with 17 minutes remaining.
However, the game turned on a botched onside kick attempt with 2:46 remaining in the third. Randy Jones booted the ball high and out of bounds, beyond the reach of a leaping Parrish.
Nebraska got the ball at the UW 47 and drove 45 yards, settling for a 20-yard field goal with nearly 13 minutes left.
Washington never threatened again.
"Now it makes (our goal) 10-1 instead of 11-0," Huard said. "We've got to regroup like we did last year after the loss against Notre Dame."
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