There's something magical about CenturyLink Field. Even though it isn't even 15 years old and has changed its name almost as many times as Puff Daddy, the stadium has that kind of karma that seems to inject the home team with super powers and make formidable foes suddenly wilt and the Huskies "Home Away From Home" season there in 2012 has shown this.
Many Husky fans, myself included, were worried about playing home games in CenturyLink for a number of reasons. It's a ways away from the campus - would the students make the trek to South Downtown? Would it still feel like a Husky game? Would there be beer for sale? Would there be a gigantic advertisement in the stadium for Tanzania? What ended up happening is that every fear Husky fans had about CenturyLink kind of did come true, but everything that could have been a positive also happened.
I was able to make my yearly trek up to Seattle from LA for at least one Husky home game in October when the Huskies faced off against the Beavers, and despite what a couple Husky fans had told me, it didn't actually seem like an inferior environment to what the old Husky Stadium has been like in recent seasons. The crowds still filed in late from the parking lot, seemed disinterested for much of the first half, didn't fill the place to the brim and was peppered with more opposing colors than one would like for a home game.With that said, it did in fact just not feel right though, but at the same time it also wasn't the empty, drunk and distracted mess that many had feared and the mojo and acoustics of the stadium played a part in the Huskies going 5-1 and beating two Top 10 teams at home in 2012.
I will admit that the stadium did look sadly a bit empty, especially against a Top 10 team, but I wouldn't blame that on the stadium as Husky Stadium has looked half empty for a number of similar games in recent history and the early heavy rains and late start on Halloween weekend couldn't have helped. Granted, CenturyLink seats a little bit less fans, but I didn't notice a big difference, other than that the student section was in the South end zone which is a mistake that is going to make its way to Husky Stadium starting next year.
One of the reasons Husky Stadium was so loud was because how concentrated the students were between the end zones on the North side of the stadium. Reportedly, the students will be moved to the West end zone and the former student section replaced with high-priced seats. While we have all seceded just about everything we love about college football to the all mighty dollar at this point, I'm a little bit worried that the noise level in the new stadium will go down with the liquor lubricated and more energetic students replaced with big ticket spenders. Having been in similar sections like this before at USC and UCLA games, it seems like these fans don't exactly bring the noise like the students will who will now be relegated to the end zone.
While I am about as excited as humanly possible for the new stadium, I am also very appreciative for the fact that one of the best football stadiums in the country is right now the road and was able to serve as a great "rented" home for a pivotal season in Husky history. No matter how the Huskies finish the season, and whether or not Stanford and Oregon State were truly deserving of their high rankings, CenturyLink played a big part in the Huskies taking down two (And nearly three with USC) Top 10 opponents at home in one season and hopefully that will be a big part of the reemergence of Washington football as a national power in the seasons to come.
So basically, thank you CenturyLink Field and maybe we'll cross paths again at an Apple Cup or two down the road.