What is the significance of that number? It is the number of days it will have been since the Washington Huskies last played in the Rose Bowl. A lot has happened since Jan. 1, 2001 to Jan. 1, 2019.
The path back to the Grandaddy of them all has seen a lot of good, some bad and some ugly times for the Huskies football team. Here’s a look back at what happened during that 18-year gap between Rose Bowl appearances:
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The Huskies were coming off a 34-24 Rose Bowl victory over Purdue but losses in conference play to UCLA and Oregon State ended any hopes of a repeat for coach Rick Neuheisel’s crew. The most damaging loss was a non-conference thumping by the Miami Hurricanes. A year before, it was the Huskies that cost the Hurricanes a shot at the 2000 national title with a 34-29 upset victory.
The Hurricanes remembered that game, and rolled to a 65-7 win. The Huskies were able to salvage a bowl berth, landing in the the Holiday Bowl where they took on Texas in one of the more entertaining bowl games. However, it was Texas prevailing in a heartbreaker, 47-43.
UW began the season ranked in the top 10, but endrued a long slide down the polls. First they suffered a tough loss at Michigan as the Wolverines hit a game-winning field goal as time expired. The lowest point of the season came as Washington lost three game in a row during Pac-10 play.
The season’s highlight would be crushing the in-state rival Washington Cougars hopes at the BCS National Title Game with an upset in the Apple Cup. The Huskies would go bowling however, losing to Purdue in the Sun Bowl.
Things went from bad to worse for Neuheisel, who got caught lying about interviewing for a potential head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. In July of that year, he was fired as Washington head coach for gambling on NCAA Tournament games.
On the field it was not much better. Although the Huskies went 6-6 with Keith Gilbertson as head coach, they would not go to a bowl game. That season was the last time the Huskies would be at or above the .500 mark for the next six years.
The Huskies went 1-10 and Gilbertson would step down as head coach. His replacement would be former Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham beginning an era most UW fans would rather forget.
Willingham era began with a loss to Notre Dame. That started a six-game losing streak as the Huskies stumbled to a 2-9 record. If Washington fans thought that was rock bottom, they were wrong. That destination was a few seasons away.
The Huskies start 4-1 and were carrying a three-game winning streak into a game at USC. UW lost that one, 26-20, and the bad times came roaring back. Washington would lose five more times to finish 5-7 but did beat Washington State in the Apple Cup.
A 2-0 start, highlighted by a win over No. 22 Boise State, offered hope …. that was quickly dashed. Washington would lose nine of their next 11 ballgames to finish 4-9.
Huskies fans would rather forget this season, the infamous 0-12 season that cost Illinghmam his job (no W’s allowed). The darkest moment was an Apple Cup loss to Washington State, which entered the rivalry game with just one win.
Hired in December of 2008, Steve Sarkisian was tasked with resurrecting a program that had sunk to the bottom of the Pac-12. Year one of the Sark era didn’t end with a bowl game but there were some highlights, the Huskies pulled off an upset vs. No. 3 USC. The Huskies also defeated Washington State in the Apple Cup.
The Huskies finally returned to a bowl game, their first since 2002. A 7-6 season earned Washington a trip to the Holiday Bowl where they defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers behind quarterback Jake Locker. The highlight was a midseason turnaround as the Huskies ran off four-straight wins.
More of the same came the Huskies way in 2011, a season where they finished a few games above .500 and reached a bowl. With a chance to have an eight-win season for the first time since 2001, Washington came up short against Baylor in a high-scoring Alamo Bowl classic losing, 67-56.
The 2012 season was a season of streaks for the 7-6 Huskies. After starting 1-1, the Huskies won two straight, then lost three straight. Then UW won four-straight wins but a loss in the Apple Cup and another loss in a bowl game resulted in a less than satisfying season.
The good news: UW cracked the eight-win mark for the first time since 2001 as they finished 8-4 with a win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The bad news: Sarksian leaves for USC. A silver lining: UW hires Boise State head coach Chris Petersen in December of 2013.
The Petersen era got off to a pretty good start, beginning 4-0 and defeating the Cougars in the Apple Cup. That Huskies bowl victory would have to wait as Washington would lose to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl.
Call it growing pains. After a midseason stretch where Washington lost four out of five games, the Huskies rebounded and finished with a three-game winning streak. The highlight came when they defeated Southern Mississippi, 44-31, in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
A return to dominance, the Huskies recorded impressive victories over Oregon and Stanford and reach the school’s first Pac-12 title game, where they beat Colorado. The win allowed UW to skip Pasadena for the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the Huskies in a 24-7 victory.
No Pac-12 title game or Rose Bowl but UW would be a participant in the New Year’s Six bowl. The Huskies were paired with Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl but thanks to Saquon Barkley’s 137 yards and two touchdowns, it was Penn State who won, 35-28.
With playoff hopes to begin the season, the Huskies dropped their season-opener to Auburn and would suffer two-seemingly damaging conference losses to both Oregon and Cal. In a snowy battle with Washington State in the Apple Cup, the Huskies won to get to the Pac-12 title game. A game-breaking interception by Byron Murphy would seal the 10-3 win over Colorado, giving the Huskies their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2000.