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Someone Mentioned the M-Word the Other Day and It Still Doesn't Seem Real

Nine months later, a lot has happened to the Huskies since their big stumble.

Montana 13, Washington 7.

That most surprising college football outcome anywhere from last season came up in conversation again the other day, making people from one northern state to the other alternately smile and cringe.

Nine months later, this grinding six-point decision is still all anyone talks about across Big Sky country. Out of sheer embarrassment, no one mentions it at all in Seattle.

Just last week, Grizzlies coach Bobby Hauck, while doing a spring size-up, referred to that momentous Husky Stadium upset as a shining moment — if not the shining moment — of his long-winding football tour of duty.

"Kicking off the season, to win at Washington was outstanding and one of my favorite memories in all of my football career," Hauck said.

Of course, it was the beginning of the end for Jimmy Lake as the UW football coach. He didn't even make it through the season. It was almost as if he immediately went on a coaching death watch after that embarrassing opening-day stumble. 

No one expected Montana to own Montlake on that Saturday, but it happened. 

Now losing to Grizzlies didn't get Lake fired, but that early September face-plant made people loudly question his ability to lead the UW program for the first time.

He might have lost a few guys in the Husky locker room on that day, as well.

For sure, a loss to FCS Montana started everything rolling to a disastrous 4-8 season for a supposedly talented and experienced Husky football team that was ranked 20th in the national polls and considered a Pac-12 contender. 

One of the things that was noticeably bothersome in the aftermath was Lake's almost news-conference nonchalance over it being just another loss. 

"I wouldn't say I'm shocked," he said, representing the only one who felt that way. "We have a lot of respect for Coach Hauck and his team. We told our team all week long this was a formidable opponent. They played better than us. We're not going to make excuses."

Excuses would have been far better than Lake's placid take on the matter. Maybe a little outrage, An apology to ticket-holders even. 

To no fault of its own, Montana was a lower-level football team that showed up to Husky Stadium like every other FCS opponent does — not for the certain loss that figures in, but to enhance its athletic department coffers.

Lake's Huskies let the Griz have it all. The money. The victory. The moment.

For all of the blown leads and lopsided losses that have come before it in Pac-12 play and the other conference iterations in more then a century of football, the Huskies' six-point setback to Montana represents the worst loss in Washington history. Because it was supposed to be an automatic win and it wasn't.

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For some reason, Lake just didn't see it that way. To him, it was just like losing to Michigan, Oregon State, UCLA and Oregon, all of which he did before turning in his office keys and giving up his boat slip.

The ramifications, though, were more wide-ranging than that.

Some Husky players who were in the opening lineup for this Montana game either have never started again or started just once more before moving down the depth chart in exile.

No one has publicly said anything to the contrary, but don't expect Montana to show up on a future UW football schedule any time soon if it ever does again. The lingering fallout from an FCS upset loss is just not worth it.

After this defeat, the Husky Stadium crowd was noticeably as sparse as it's been in decades for the next couple of outings.

Players began to question themselves after a loss like this, recruits watching in the stands and seeking a big-time football destination found it a turnoff while they were team-shopping and 10 of the 11 UW coaches that day ultimately were forced to find new jobs. 

Fifteen years ago, mighty Michigan went through the great discomfort of having its football reputation left in tatters by a determined little guy. The Big Ten powerhouse lost to FCS Appalachian State 34-32 at the Big House. People in and around Ann Arbor still speak about that outcome only in whispers.

The Wolverines went through a coaching change from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez at the end of that forgettable season, next experienced consecutive losing records and only in recent years have they regained their college football luster.

Jordan Perryman, a UC Davis cornerback on his way to becoming a two-time, first-team All-Big Sky selection last season, remembers his surprise at seeing fellow league member Montana emerge victorious from Husky Stadium. 

Everybody loves the underdog showing up the heavily favored, the one with greater resources, the football giant. This was a moment every Big Sky player celebrated, no matter what school he played for in the conference that day, and this California-raised cornerback was no different. 

It was Big Sky David against Pac-12 Goliath and the ensuing thud was heard all around college football.

"I was really excited for them," Perryman said of the Grizzlies. "They came out and proved themselves."

Perryman, of course, since has transferred to the UW and been enlisted in helping put the Husky football program back together again and restoring its exalted Power 5 stature. 

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