Originally published December 23, 2011 at 9:00 PM | Page modified December 23, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Huskies ready for Christmas in Texas

Steve Sarkisian has all he wants for Christmas — several days of practices leading up to Thursday's Alamo Bowl against Baylor.

Special to The Seattle Times

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SAN ANTONIO — There's no need for Washington players to even think about a Christmas gift for Steve Sarkisian.

Even though Sarkisian will be far from his Bellevue home for the holidays while his team prepares for the Alamo Bowl, the Huskies coach couldn't be more excited.

"I tell them don't ever give me anything for Christmas," Sarkisian said. "They already gave me the best gift that I could have. That's waking up in a hotel on Christmas Day at a bowl game and then going to practice."

The Huskies arrived late Friday afternoon at their downtown San Antonio hotel after a four-hour flight from Seattle. The team will begin practices on Saturday afternoon for its Thursday game against 12th-ranked Baylor.

Sarkisian took advantage of time during the flight to huddle with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

"I was kind of revisiting our offensive game plan against their defense," said Sarkisian. "We were looking at things that maybe don't look as good now the second time around, and some things that might look a little better with what we want to add. That's what this week is all about."

Among the diversions that bowl organizers have planned for the team before the game are a trip to Sea World of Texas, a dinner at a nearby ranch and a pep rally.

"There all sorts of fun things for our guys," Sarkisian said. "The key on trips like this is to embrace those opportunities to have fun. And then when it's time to go to practice, to meet and focus on that.

"Our guys know how to do that well, but we really have to enforce it. That starts tonight with our first team meeting."

Sarkisian said the Huskies brought all 105 players to San Antonio. They were greeted at the team hotel by about 50 Washington fans and alumni, the largest show of support for any non-Texas program during the bowl's 19-year history, Alamo Bowl officials said.

Excitement for the game has been building since the matchup was announced this month. The bowl began selling obstructed-view seats in the Alamodome on Friday.

A capacity crowd of more than 65,000 is expected to watch Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner, play possibly his final college game because he could declare for the NFL draft.

Washington players know that most of the crowd will be rooting for Baylor.

"It will definitely be a road game," UW junior center Drew Schaefer said. "We'll have a couple of days to adapt to the changes. But we should be good by game time."

It's the Husky football team's first trip to San Antonio and first game in Texas since a loss to Purdue in the 2002 Sun Bowl in El Paso.

Freshman wide receiver Kasen Williams of the Huskies is familiar with San Antonio. He visited each of the last four years, including an appearance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome last January.

"I've walked around the city and there's a lot of things around there," Williams said. "I played there and know what it's like to go in front of a packed house."

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt has relatives in the area and hopes they conjure some good karma for his much-maligned unit.

Holt is the first cousin of San Antonio Spurs majority owner Peter Holt, whose team has four NBA titles in the last 13 seasons.

"Peter is a little older than me," Nick Holt said. "But as we get older, the more we talk to each other."

Peter Holt's family built the largest Caterpillar tractor dealership in the country and has varied sports interests in San Antonio, including a WNBA franchise and a minor-league hockey team.

"My dad and Peter have been close and they had a good relationship when I was growing up," Holt said. "Now, he's a big-time guy. They are self-made and have done a nice job building that company up. I'm really proud of them."

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