Washington’s Asa Turner (20) celebrates with Kamren Fabiculanan (31) after Turner intercepted a pass in the final minute of a game against Oregon State on Nov. 14, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington’s Asa Turner (20) celebrates with Kamren Fabiculanan (31) after Turner intercepted a pass in the final minute of a game against Oregon State on Nov. 14, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington’s 2021 football schedule released

Huskies head coach Jimmy Lake is hopeful that fans will be allowed as soon as the spring game May 1.

By Mike Vorel / The Seattle Times

The Washington Huskies have unfinished business.

And now they have a schedule to prepare for, too.

On Tuesday morning, the Pac-12 released its 2021 conference football schedule. The highlight for UW, of course, is a trip east to meet Michigan on Sept. 11 — after the teams’ showdown in Seattle last season was canceled. The Huskies’ hardest stretch will come after their bye on Oct. 9, when they close their season with consecutive opponents Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, Colorado and Washington State — though the back-to-back against Pac-12 contenders Oregon and Arizona State will both be played in Seattle.

The Huskies also have a pair of Friday games this fall: at Arizona on Oct. 22 and at home against Washington State on Nov. 26. They’re scheduled to open conference play against Cal for the third consecutive year.

But, unsurprisingly, second-year head coach Jimmy Lake is focused only on the first game of the fall.

“I know this is going to sound like coach-speak, but my eyes go to our first game — our home opener,” Lake said on Pac-12 Network on Tuesday morning. “I’m hoping we have a bunch of fans, (and) the families of our players and staff are going to be in the stands, to have a home opener and play some really good football against one of the best FCS teams in the country year in and year out in the University of Montana.”

But the Montana game may not be UW’s first opportunity to entertain fans inside Husky Stadium in 2021. Lake announced Tuesday that his team’s spring practices will commence on April 7, with fans hopefully permitted to attend the spring game on May 1.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to have fans in the stands,” he said. “We’re pushing for that. Our administration’s pushing for it; our staff is pushing for it, and especially our families of our players.”

If fans are indeed welcomed back inside Husky Stadium this spring, they’ll find a team returning much of its talent after finishing 3-1 in a shortened 2020 season. That group includes a core — including left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, tight end Cade Otton and outside linebackers Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Ryan Bowman — that opted to return rather than entering the NFL Draft.

It appears, for those players, a four-game season wasn’t nearly enough.

“I sense with everybody that there’s unfinished business we need to take care of,” Lake said. “We were happy just to play those four games. There were a lot of positives to take away, going 3-1. There were definitely some mistakes. But I know everyone feels like there was a lot left on the table that we weren’t able to finish because of the coronavirus and all the circumstances.

“So now we have some players that definitely could’ve taken the opportunity and gone to the next level, but they could improve their stock and improve their draft grade by playing another year. But also, they want to play another year with their brothers and finish this thing the right way. I know they’re excited about that. Our team’s excited that they’re back.”

Likewise, Washington football fans will undoubtedly be excited for a return to relative normalcy with a 12-game football season (hopefully) happening this fall.

But first, Lake has 15 spring practices to prepare for his second season at the helm.

“What we’re looking forward to is just continuing to grow,” he said. “Just watching the guys go through our offense and defense and special teams (without a football this winter), they’re lightyears ahead of where they were a year ago in 2020. Now we know the huddle. We know the cadence. We know some of our checks on defense. We’ve got a lot of guys back, so these guys have heard the verbiage now.

“Now we’re just going to take that next step. These guys are going to be bigger, stronger, faster, and know the details of the position. We’re hoping we take a really huge jump here in spring football and make sure with those 15 practices, we take advantage of all those days.”

2021 UW Football Schedule

Sept. 4 — MONTANA (Husky Stadium)

Sept. 11 — at Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Sept. 18 — ARKANSAS STATE (Husky Stadium)

Sept. 25 — CALIFORNIA (Husky Stadium)

Oct. 2 — at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.)

Oct. 9 — BYE

Oct. 16 — UCLA (Husky Stadium)

Oct. 22 — at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)

Oct. 30 — at Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.)

Nov. 6 — OREGON (Husky Stadium)

Nov. 13 — ARIZONA STATE (Husky Stadium)

Nov. 20 — at Colorado (Boulder, Colo.)

Nov. 26 — WASHINGTON STATE (Husky Stadium)

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