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Enthusiasm High For Holiday Bowl

— A rematch of a lopsided September game and the first year of being lower on college football's postseason pecking order did little to diminish enthusiasm for tonight's Holiday Bowl.

Nearly 60,000 fans are expected at Qualcomm Stadium for the game between Washington and Nebraska.

Husky fans bought all 11,000 tickets in their allotment in their eagerness to see the team's first bowl game since 2002. Cornhusker supporters purchased 9,000 tickets, or 82 percent of their allotment.

Nebraska is not only playing in the game for the second year in a row, but earlier this season crushed Washington 56-21 in Seattle.

Because the Holiday Bowl is tied in with the Pacific-10 and Big 12 conferences, those were the two teams that became available. Husky fans and bowl organizers are hoping the rematch will be better than the first meeting.

"The Pac-10 and Big 12 are huge draws, and when these two conferences get together, it usually turns out to be a pretty darn good football game," said Bruce Binkowski, the game's executive director.

The Holiday Bowl used to have the first pick of Pacific-10 Conference teams that remained available after the Bowl Championship Series selected participants, and the second choice of remaining Big 12 schools.

The Pacific-10 Conference reached an agreement with the San Antonio-based Alamo Bowl last year to give it the first choice among conference teams after the Bowl Championship Series made its selections, knocking the Holiday Bowl down a rung on the ladder.

With Stanford's 11-1 record giving the Pacific-10 a second team in a BCS game and USC ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions, Washington became the conference's Holiday Bowl representative once it completed a three-game winning streak at the end of the regular season to become bowl eligible with a 6-6 record.

The upheaval made only a minor dent on annual ticket renewals by local fans, which was 87 percent this year, bowl officials said. The rate usually is 90 percent or above.

"With nearly 60,000 tickets sold for (tonight's) game, we couldn't be more thrilled," Binkowski said.

Holiday Bowl officials suggest using public transportation to the game because of the large crowd and renewed flooding in the stadium parking lot during Wednesday's rainstorm that could remove a large number of spaces.

The floodwaters did not get onto the field like before last Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl, in which San Diego State defeated Navy 35-14 following a Herculean effort by city crews to whip the stadium into playable condition.

The Metropolitan Transit System will offer more frequent trolley service on the Green and Blue lines, but officials noted that parking lots at stops filled early before the Poinsettia Bowl, so are suggesting that fans leave two to three hours before the 7 p.m. kickoff.

Fans also are being warned to expect a wait of up to an hour to catch a trolley at the stadium stop after the game.

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