Oct. 12, 2010
by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Great news for all Huskies: Their "Superman" feels way better.
That alone could cure an offense that was under-the-weather for most of last weekend's loss to Arizona State.
Jake Locker was back on the practice field as Washington (2-3, 1-1 Pac-10) began preparations for Saturday night's homecoming game against Oregon State. And the star quarterback who receiver Jordan Polk says "is like Superman" expects to be healthy and ready for the Beavers (3-2, 2-0).
"I'll be all right. Kind of a head-congestion type thing ... It's not really a big deal," Locker said Monday evening, adding he felt sick most of last week. "(We'll) kind of go forward from here now."
Last Saturday, he was on one knee during a timeout late in the 24-14 loss to the Sun Devils, which tied last year's Stanford game as the fewest points Washington has scored in Steve Sarkisian's one-and-a-half seasons as its coach. After the game, Locker visited UW Medical Center across the street from Husky Stadium for intravenous fluids. He visited a doctor Monday morning.
"I don't know what it was. I just at times I felt more tired than I ever felt," Locker said. "It was weird."
The senior marvelously led the Huskies with 420 total yards in their win at USC the previous week. Then he got sick and couldn't catch his breath throughout most of the loss in the rain to ASU.
Not surprisingly, Locker refused to use the illness as an excuse for completing 23 of 38 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown but running for just six yards on 11 carries. Sarkisian, knowing Locker was having trouble re-gaining his breath, called only three of those quarterback runs. The others were scrambles against ASU's pass rush.
The coach said Locker was obviously affected.
"He was sick, there was no doubt," Sarkisian said. "I didn't feel his speed. The week before when he'd run, I mean, you felt it. There was no doubt. We all felt it. This ballgame, when he'd run not only did I not feel the explosiveness we've felt out of him, it had a lingering effect on the plays after.
"I think that kind of affected our tempo and getting in and out of the huddle. He was just trying to catch his own breath."
Sarkisian added the offense as a whole not playing to its potential didn't help, either.
The Huskies had rolled to 32 points and 537 yards at USC. Seven days later they notched two touchdowns and 354 yards.
But the Huskies were hampered against ASU beyond Locker being sick. Jermaine Kearse, the Pac-10's leader in yards receiving per game coming in, also felt ill while catching six passes for 47 yards. Fellow wide receiver Devin Aguilar, a favorite target of Locker's on third down, was out with a hip injury he sustained on the final play of last Thursday's practice. That gave Polk his opportunity for a career-high three receptions. And starting left guard Erik Kohler was out with mononucleosis.
Sarkisian expects Aguilar to be able to play against Oregon State.
Beyond the injuries and illnesses, the coach thought the entire team looked sapped compared to the raucous night in Los Angeles the week before.
"I looked at our sidelines -- you can see it on film, you can see it on the TV copy -- it's a 21-14 ballgame with 11 minutes left and I just didn't see the same energy level, enthusiasm, excitement that I saw on the sidelines during the USC game, for whatever reason," Sarkisian said.
"Not that we didn't try hard or not that we weren't excited to play, (but) I thought our energy level wasn't as where I've seen it before. ... We have to make sure we are playing with a passion that I know we are really capable of playing with."
Senior safety and co-captain Nate Williams also noticed the dip in energy.
"We have to find a way to get hyped up for (other) teams like we do for USC," said Williams, who is third in the Pac-10 averaging 8.6 tackles per game. "You have to bring it."
The health of UW's indispensible quarterback is always hugely important - never more so than against the rugged Beavers.
"They always play physical. They play hard," said Locker, who was knocked out of a game at Oregon State by a helmet-to-helmet hit in his freshman season of 2007.
But the co-captain is stressing to his teammates a more introspective, "we" approach to this key game, with less focus on the particular opponent.
"More than anything this week," Locker said, "we need to focus on what we're doing, and worry about where we're at and the things that we need to do offensively and defensively to have success."