December 12th, 2010 – One of my cousins is invited by a business associate to watch a Chargers game from his suite at Qualcomm Stadium. In the course of conversation, comes to find out he has the suite year-round and has no plans to use it for the Holiday Bowl; my cousin posts a photo to Facebook and says it’s available, and within 4 days plans come together and me and two additional cousins and their wives are set to travel down to San Diego to watch the game courtesy of cousin #1.
December 28th, 2010 – Drive down to Portland in the evening to meet cousin #1 and his wife who are spending the holidays at their old home in Beaverton.
December 29th, 2010 – Get up early, hit the road at 6:45ish for the long drive down to Long Beach with cousin #1 and his wife. Hit snow around Roseburg, and it’s slow-going through the Siskiyous even though it’s nothing more than a little slush between the lanes. Speed picks up to normal by the time we hit the border. No view of Mt. Shasta due to clouds, but great view of Shasta Lake. Thankful for our GPS unit when we stop for gas in Sacramento, otherwise we might have had a tough time finding our way back to I-5. Run into snow again at Tejon Pass crossing over from the Central Valley into the L.A. basin, but traffic moves OK with guidance from the CHP. Roll into Long Beach a little after midnight – made the trip in roughly 17 hours with a number of pit stops along the way.
December 30th, 2010 – Gameday. A nice breakfast at cousin #1’s house, joined by cousin #2 and his wife and two daughters. The daughters are dropped off in Malibu at a relative’s house for the night and the limo we’ve booked for transportation to the game arrives at 3PM. We head out to the game, with 3 stops along the way to pick up more guests (including cousin #3 and his wife). Traffic is bad at times, and we get to Qualcomm right at 7PM, in time to see the paratroopers landing in the stadium for the National Anthem. Get to our suite in time to see the teams come out on to the field.
Game starts, and we’re all in peak form, cheering loudly for the Dawgs. Our suite is on the 40 yard line on the Nebraska side of the stadium, with a number of Husker fans in the loge seats in front of us. We’re probably not making many friends today. Concern as Nebraska drives easily on their first possession, turning into wild celebration after the fumble recovery and subsequent score. Lots of high-fiving and cheering as our defense shuts down the Nebraska offense and the Huskies notch a field-goal to go up 10-0. Concern again as Nebraska marches down for a TD to close it to 10-7 and then dread as Locker goes down after a scramble and a helmet-to-helmet hit that is inexplicably not called by the officials (much to our very loud protest). Thankfully Locker seems to be OK and re-enters the game on the Huskies’ next possession. More complaining by us as the Huskers are getting away with pass interference frequently. Huskies make a late march at the end of the half, but miss the FG.
Halftime and we enjoy some $47 pizza and $41 six-packs of Corona (gotta love the stupid-expensive suite pricing). The fireworks leave a bunch of haze and sulfur smell lingering over the field as the 2nd half starts.
Huskies continue to stifle the Nebraska offense and our running game continues to be effective. Locker scores on a great option-keeper run to put us up 17-7, and the belief is growing that we might actually win this game. Our defense knocks the Husker QB out of the game and then we drive down the field, going for it on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line – bold call, but just short. Nebraska’s backup QB appears to convert on 3rd and long from his 2 yard line with a long scramble, but the Huskers are called for holding in the end zone – Safety, Washington and a 19-7 lead with the ball going back to us! It’s hang-on time now as we try to run the clock out. Nebraska launches a final drive late in the 4th quarter to try to get back into the game, but it ends on a failed long pass on 4th down into the end zone. We’re going nuts in the suite as Nebraska fans stream out of the stadium. Huskies march down the field and could have scored again, but took the high road and ran out the clock. All the Husky fans in the stadium are going nuts as we celebrate the improbable, huge win. Nebraska had beaten us 56-21 earlier in the year at Husky Stadium, and here we are a few months later beating them 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl to finish 7-6, just 2 seasons removed from the 0-12 disaster in Ty Willingham’s last season.
A happy ride home in the limo.
December 31st, 2010 – Get up at 9, have a couple eggs and a latte and head out to Long Beach Airport for the flight back to Portland, then the drive home to Seattle in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends – a great end to the year!
Postscript - Watched my DVR replay today, and all I can say is f-you ESPN. First off, not cutting away from the Tennessee/North Carolina game in the Seattle market in time for the start of the game? Really? Then cutting over to the f-ing Connecticut/Stanford women's basketball game, the one being played on ESPN2, meaning anyone watching the Holiday Bowl on ESPN could have simply switched the channel had they decided they wanted to watch that game instead? Utterly indefensible programming decisions, meaning we didn't get uninterrupted broadcast of the game until well into the 2nd quarter. And then to have a play-by-play guy who clearly didn't take the Huskies seriously and hadn't done much research and seemed to barely be paying attention to the game - just no respect for the UW. Finally by the 4th quarter they seemed to take the game a little more seriously, but in all, what a horrible production by the "sports leader".