Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin is tackled by Washington cornerback Elijah Jackson and linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala (11) during Saturday’s game in Seattle. Washington won 36-33. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin is tackled by Washington cornerback Elijah Jackson and linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala (11) during Saturday’s game in Seattle. Washington won 36-33. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Vorel: UW football reminds world there’s big-time football out west

“Yeah, today was amazing,” a smiling UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Saturday.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

Amid the euphoria unfolding inside Husky Stadium — a tearful Michael Penix Jr. being led by security through his legion of Heisman support, searching for his family; thousands of purple-clad UW devotees hugging and crying and sitting on shoulders, twisting fingers into W’s; defensive back (and Seattle native) Mishael Powell smiling and stretching both arms into the sky, as fans come flooding by; ABC cameras capturing an unmoored Montlake mob, an emotional avalanche — color commentator Kirk Herbstreit attempted to describe the scene.

“That’s college football right there — to see Michael Penix, the emotion, how much this means to these players in a rivalry game, and to look out at that scene,” Herbstreit said, following No. 5 Washington’s 36-33 win over No. 9 Oregon on Saturday. ” Look at this. You don’t get this. I do Thursday night NFL football, and I love it. But you do not get this unless it’s a Saturday in college football.

“And Michael Penix, good for you, battling through so much adversity to have this moment for your team, being that leader. Tremendous.”

Added play-by-play announcer Chris Fowler, overlooking the outpouring: “I agree. I haven’t seen it on a Monday, either. There’s nothing like the sport of college football — one of the great rivalries, not enough attention paid to it around the country. If you’re from the West Coast, you know how precious this is for the guys in purple.”

The Huskies hope the secret is out.

Because there’s a perception, earned or otherwise, that the West Coast doesn’t care. That college football is an amusing distraction out here, but in other areas it just means more. That lagging attendance numbers are evidence of eroding enthusiasm. That recruits should leave — flocking to the South or Midwest, primarily — to play big-time football in front of big-time football fans.

That Washington is a blue blood in name but not in game.

The scene said otherwise.

“Yeah, today was amazing,” a smiling UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Saturday. “I remember feeling this when I coached here in 2017 on the other end (with Fresno State). I remember feeling like this is a special place; this is different. It was on another level.

“To continue to do it for four quarters, that takes a lot of energy, not just from us but from the fans. Husky Nation showed out — starting this morning at 6 a.m., and actually before that. What a day for our program.”

Not a game.

A day.

Or two.

Because UW students began camping at Red Square at 4 p.m. Friday, 14 hours before “College GameDay” was set to start. ESPN’s weekly college football carnival went live at 6 a.m. Saturday, before the sun, serenaded by a sea of Husky fans and hard hats and occasionally inappropriate signs despite the damp and dark.

“This is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen humans do,” remarked ESPN’s Pat McAfee, who might have entered the weekend with widespread misconceptions of Washington state at large. “It’s raining. It’s miserable. It’s 6 a.m., and they’ve been out here all morning. Shout out to the Washington Huskies fan base being a beautiful representation of college football.”

The scene said otherwise.

“Yeah, today was amazing,” a smiling UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Saturday. “I remember feeling this when I coached here in 2017 on the other end [with Fresno State]. I remember feeling like this is a special place; this is different. It was on another level.

“To continue to do it for four quarters, that takes a lot of energy, not just from us but from the fans. Husky Nation showed out — starting this morning at 6 a.m., and actually before that. What a day for our program.”

Not a game.

A day.

Or two.

Because UW students began camping at Red Square at 4 p.m. Friday, 14 hours before “College GameDay” was set to start. ESPN’s weekly college football carnival went live at 6 a.m. Saturday, before the sun, serenaded by a sea of Husky fans and hard hats and occasionally inappropriate signs despite the damp and dark.

“This is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen humans do,” remarked ESPN’s Pat McAfee, who might have entered the weekend with widespread misconceptions of Washington state at large. “It’s raining. It’s miserable. It’s 6 a.m., and they’ve been out here all morning. Shout out to the Washington Huskies fan base being a beautiful representation of college football.”

On a national stage — sidestepping cheap jokes about missed field goals — UW put its best foot forward.

“Husky Stadium is deafening and literally shaking with Washington on defense,” Stewart Mandel, The Athletic’s editor-in-chief for college football, posted on the social media platform X during the first quarter.

Added The Athletic senior writer Chris Vannini, a day later: “Sunday Thoughts: Washington’s Husky Stadium is an incredible environment. The noise, the overhang, the harbor sailgating, the open-air press box. An awesome place to watch a game.”

While fans hopped over railings and ran onto the field, Mariners superstar Julio Rodriguez — who was gifted a Husky jersey by DeBoer before his first college football game — posted an Instagram story flashing a “W” and repeating, “Wooooow. Wooooow. Wooooow. That’s crazy. Let’s go!”

That was the general consensus Saturday — and not just in Seattle. Perhaps, before UW officially enters the Big Ten next summer, this secret is getting out.

Granted, No. 5 Washington (6-0) has more work to do between now and then. It will encounter a trio of ranked opponents — No. 18 USC, No. 14 Utah and No. 12 Oregon State — in consecutive weeks next month. A rematch with Oregon could be coming in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 championship as well.

But after throwing for 302 yards with four touchdowns and an interception Saturday, Penix — the Heisman Trophy front-runner — was asked if the Big Ten fully appreciates what its additions will bring.

“I’ll say yeah, they appreciate it,” he said, before punctuating the sentence with a predictive grin. “But at the same time, they better be ready.”

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