TOP 5 STORIES
As December drew to a close, one story dominated all — Washington’s improbable victory over 14-point favorite Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
5. MLS places a “cap” on away supporters (Dec. 15)
Major League Soccer decides, to the chagrin of most boot adherents in the Northwest, that Cascadia clubs Seattle, Portland and Vancouver will be permitted only to allocate 500 tickets to away supporters for 2011 rivalry matches. Imagine if UW had allocated only 500 tickets to, say, Nebraska supporters (some 22,000 traveled to Seattle last September). Or if the Mariners decreed that only 500 Red Sox fans per game would be admitted to Safeco Field. MLS needs to loosen up. Whats the point of promoting rivalry matches when the allocation to away supporters is just 500 tickets?
4. Huskies win Apple Cup to become bowl eligible (Dec. 4)
Thanks to a late Jake Locker-to-Jermaine Kearse touchdown pass — one of great throws of Locker’s career — and the day-long rumbling of running back Chris Polk, Washington defeats Washington State 35-28 in the Apple Cup, becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2002. Washington begins the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown lead, 28-14, prior to a Cougars’ rally through the air. But Polk and Locker are too much during the final drive for Washington State to stop. The game also ends with an ugly scene on the field during which numerous fans were ejected or arrested and several injured by hooligans throwing ice balls.
3. Mariners, fans, friends pay tribute to Dave Niehaus (Dec. 11)
The Mariners had their most poignant day of 2010 when they stage a wonderful memorial for their late, legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus at Safeco Field. When emcee Rick Rizzs chokes up at the podium to the point that he cannot speak, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and Dan Wilson and Ron Fairly come to his aid. More than 3,500 friends, family and admirers attended the memorial, during which team President Chuck Armstrong announces that a statue of the gifted Hall of Fame broadcaster will be erected at Safeco Field.
2. Seahawks play for division title with a 6-9 record
The Seahawks reach the end of December with a 6-9 record and having lost seven of their past nine, but with a chance to win the NFC West and host a playoff game by defeating the (7-8) St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field on Jan 2 — with backup Charlie Whitehurst as the team’s likely starting quarterback. A win by the Seahawks would make history, becoming the first team with a losing record to capture a division crown and host a playoff game.
1. Huskies shock Nebraska in Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30)
Chris Polk rushes for 177 yards, second-highest total in UW bowl history, and Jake Locker manages a flawless game as Washington stuns Nebraska and shocks the oddsmakers, who had installed the Cornhuskers as 14-point favorites to win the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Polk’s 177 yards rank second to the 193 posted by Rashaan Shehee in the 1997 Aloha Bowl against Michigan State. The Husky defense, embarrassed by Nebraska in September by a 56-21 margin, in a game in which the Cornhuskers featured three 100-yard rushers, hold them to 189 total yards and do not allow a Nebraska runner to crack 40 yards. Meanwhile, head coach Steve Sarkisian wins his first bowl game for Washington just two years after UW went 0-12. Sarkisian ties a Rick Neuheisel record for fastest bowl win by a UW coach (Rose Bowl following the 2000 season) — two years (Jim Owens and Don James won their first bowl games for UW following their third seasons).
GAMES OF THE MONTH
- Dec. 5: Marshawn Lynch scores on a pair of one-yard runs in the third quarter, sandwiched around a 26-yard interception return by linebacker Lofa Tatupu, and the Seahawks rally from a 14-0 deficit to beat the Carolina Panthers at Qwest Field and remain in a tie with St. Louis atop the NFC West at 6-6. Lynch scores three touchdowns, the first such performance by a Seattle running back since Nov. 13, 2005, when Shaun Alexander tallied three against the Rams.
- Dec. 29: A breakout game from freshman Terrence Ross and team-wide guts helps Washington rally from a 16-4 deficit and beat the Trojans 73-67 in overtime to start the Pac-10 season. Ross scores 18 points, as does Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Venoy Overton is vital down the stretch and in overtime.
- Dec. 1: The Sounders sign Fredy Montero to a multi-year contract, making him the team’s third designated player. Montero is a two-time MLS All-Star selection and voted the 2009 Newcomer of the Year.
- Dec. 2: The Mariners trade INF Jose Lopez to the Colorado Rockies for minor league pitcher Chaz Roe. The Mariners also sign LHP Erik Bedard to an incentive-laden, one-year contract and elect to non-tender starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, who went 1-10 in 2010.
- Dec. 3: Ron Santo dies in an Arizona hospital of complications from bladder cancer. A Franklin High graduate and a former Seattle Rainiers batboy and groundskeeper, Santo had a near-Hall of Fame career with the Cubs and White Sox (1960-74) and later served with the Cubs broadcast team. Many believe him to be the greatest ballplayer Seattle has produced.
- Dec. 4: Justin Holiday scores a game-high 20 points, Matthew Bryan-Amaning adds 18 and Isaiah Thomas 16 and the No. 23-ranked-Huskies connect on 56.2 percent of their shots in a 108-79 blowout win over Texas Tech at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. It marks the fourth time in seven games that the UW (5-2) exceeds 100 points, a single-season school record.
- Dec. 4: Washington State University announces that head football coach Paul Wulff would return in 2011 despite a resume showing 32 losses in 37 tries more defeats endured by any college coach in America over the past three seasons. His 25 Pac-10 defeats over the same span rank as the worst in conference history.
- Dec. 6: Washington uses another crisp shooting night, making 13 of 23 3-point attempts, on its way to win No. 6, downing Portland 94-72. After Portland cuts the Washington lead to six points with 8:25 remaining in the second half, Huskies reserve Scott Suggs provides crucial jump shots to boost the margin back into double figures.
- Dec. 8: The Mariners sign former Oakland DH Jack Cust to a reported one-year, $2.5 million contract, bringing much-needed power to the Seattle lineup. Cust hit belted 33 homers in 2007, with 26 in 2008 and then 13 in 2010.
- Dec. 8: UW linebacker Mason Foster is selected first-team All-Pac-10, becoming the first Husky so honored since safety C.J. Wallace in 2006. Running back Chris Polk, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and safety Nate Williams make second-team All-Pac-10, while quarterback Jake Locker, defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu and linebacker Victor Aiyewa earn Honorable Mention recognition.
- Dec. 9: The Mariners sign free-agent catcher Miguel Olivo, a Mariner from 2004-05, to a two-year, $7 million contract.
- Dec. 10: Normally unflappable UW volleyball coach Jim McLaughlin has to be restrained (by UW staffers and a cop) from going after Nebraska head coach John Cook after a round of jawing following UWs 3-1 win over the Cornhuskers in an NCAA regional semifinal at Hec Ed.
- Dec. 11: Washington fails its first road test. Isaiah Thomas tracks back for a steal with Washington down one, but his pull-up jumper is blocked as time runs out in a 63-62 loss to Texas A&M.
- Dec. 12: Much-maligned Alex Smith, auditioning for a job in 2011, throws for 255 yards and three touchdowns, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a shockingly easy victory over the Seahawks at Candlestick Park. Returning to the San Francisco starting lineup after a five-game absence, Smith capitalizes on four Matt Hasselbeck interceptions and a fumble that sets up a 49ers score. Seattle falls to 6-7, but remains tied with St. Louis atop the NFC West.
- Dec. 13: The Seahawks place WR Deon Butler on injured reserve after Butler suffers a broken right leg in a 40-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers (finished the season with 36 catches for 385 yards and a team-leading four TD receptions).
- Dec. 13: The Mariners designate C Rob Johnson in order to make room for Cust on the major league roster; in 2010, Johnson, 28, hit .191 (34×178) with 24 runs, 10 doubles, 2 home runs and 13 RBI in 61 games.
- Dec. 14: University of Washington linebacker Mason Foster is named to his third and fourth All-America teams, gaining accolades from The Associated Press (third team) and SI.com (honorable mention). Foster becomes the most decorated UW linebacker since 1991-1992, when Dave Hoffman joined Rick Redman (1963-64) as the only two-time, first-team All-America linebackers in school history.
- Dec. 15: The Sounders lose defender Tyrone Marshall to the Colorado Rapids in Stage 2 of the MLS re-entry draft; after acquiring goalkeeper Chris Seitz from the Philadelphia Union, Sounders FC trade him to Dallas FC for a fourth-round 2012 draft choice.
- Dec. 16: The Sounders announce the signing of Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg to a three-year contract.
- Dec. 17: The Sounders announce that goalkeeper Kasey Keller has agreed to a one-year contract, and that the 2011 season will be the last of Keller’s career.
- Dec. 18: Washington pushes its lead throughout the night, peaking it at 30, in a 80-52 non-conference win over San Francisco (4-6). The Huskies trot out a new starting lineup, replacing Darnell Gant with Matthew Bryan-Amaning at power forward.
- Dec. 19: Matt Ryan throws for 174 yards and three touchdown passes while Matt Hasselbeck throws two more interceptions as the Atlanta Falcons, after trailing 7-0 early, bury the Seahawks 34-18 at Qwest Field. The Seahawks fall to 6-8, but remain in playoff contention in the weak NFC West because the St. Louis Rams (6-8) lose to Kansas City 27-13. Atlanta dominates time of possession, 35:25 to Seattle’s 24:35. The Falcons run 73 plays to Seattle’s 56.
- Dec. 22: Isaiah Thomas has his best overall game of the season as the Huskies close their non-conference schedule with a 90-60 victory over Nevada. Thomas scores a season-high 24 points and also has four assists and eight rebounds in 30 minutes. In running their record to 8-3, the Huskies commit just five turnovers.
- Dec. 23: The University of Washington women’s basketball team scores just 27 points — 9 in the second half — in losing to Georgia Tech 60-27 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Not a record. On March 8, 1975, UW lost to Washington State, scoring just 24.
- Dec. 26: The Seahawks face a meaningless game from a possible playoff perspective, and sink to the occasion in a 38-15 loss to Tampa Bay. The Bucs outgain Seattle 439 yards to 174.
- Dec. 28: For the second straight year, the Seahawks fail to place a player on the NFC Pro Bowl team, although rookie safety Earl Thomas is named as an alternate. Seattle featured at least one Pro Bowler every year from 2001-08.
EX-SEATTLE ATHLETE OF THE MONTH
On Dec. 18, Auburn’s 21-year-old Ariana Kukors won the gold medal in the 100 individual medley at the Short-Course World Swimming Championships in Dubai, clocking 58.95 seconds.
- “Two years ago Monday, I met you for the first time. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I didn’t think it would take very long. As sure as (heck), it hasn’t!”– Steve Sarkisian, UW football coach, addressing his team after winning the Apple Cup on Dec. 4, which made the Huskies bowl eligible for the first time since 2002
- “It’s everything I’ve ever hoped, all that I could enjoy. It’s awesome.” — Jake Locker, UW quarterback, on reaching a bowl game for the first time in his college career
- “Dave was the father of the Mariners because he adopted this team from day one. Nobody loved the Mariners more than he did.” — Rick Rizzs, Mariners broadcaster, at a public memorial for Dave Niehaus on Dec. 11
- I dont make the rules. It sucks. Nobody wants to hear that, but thats part of the game. Whether you have a chance at 7-9 or 8-8 to go to the playoffs, and you win youre division you get a home game. Thats part of the game. Im not going to turn it down, so lets go and play. — Seahawks right tackle Sean Locklear, on the fact that Seattle could win the NFC West with a 7-9 record
- “For some reason, we just couldn’t find our rhythm out there.” — Tia Jackson, UW women’s basketball coach, after her team scored just 27 points in a 60-27 debacle at Hec Ed Pavilion on Dec. 27