Oct. 26, 2010
by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - If it wasn't clear already, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian made it so in advance of this week's game against Stanford.
Sarkisian and Locker both said the indispensible senior quarterback will make his 36th career start on Saturday for Washington (3-4, 2-2 Pac-10) against the No. 13 Cardinal (6-1, 3-1). It will be the fifth consecutive game Locker has played through some ailment.
"He's still got the thigh bruise, which obviously limits some of the running, the explosiveness. He's got some sore ribs that has caused him some issues," Sarkisian said. "Those two things can factor in when it's time to run and time to flush out of the pocket and make your plays."
Yet the coach gave a flat "no" this week when asked if there was a point where it would become better to play anyone else if Locker isn't 100 percent healthy.
The coach says the only way he will rest Locker is "if I don't think Jake gives us the best chance to win."
And that's not going to happen until after Washington's second-leading career passer graduates in a couple of months.
"I don't know if it affects our passing game as much as our running game. It just gives us another option when I'm able to run, and one that I wasn't really able to use a whole lot on Saturday," Locker said of his soreness at Arizona.
"Hopefully, I get to run around a little bit this week and get feeling a little bit better, and then we're able to do what we're accustomed to doing."
Locker got hit in the ribs during the Oregon State game on Oct. 16 - and all he did after that was throw for a UW record-tying five touchdowns in the two-overtime win over the Beavers. Then last week in Tucson, Sarkisian did not call many running plays for Locker or rollout passes because he wanted to limit how much Locker got hit.
"I didn't run quite as much as I had been, but I thought for the most part that was really the only part of my game that was affected," Locker said.
Sarkisian said he was trying to preserve - and protect -- his best player.
"As much as I am a play-caller, I'm the head coach. It's not just Jake Locker. These are my kids, these are my guys. I love everything that they give me," Sarkisian said. "But ultimately, as much as I want them to perform and to play well, I want them to be healthy. I want to make sure that I don't expose them to things that could further injure them.
"I wasn't going to do that last week with Jake. I wasn't going to put him out there and run him between the tackles to take hits that he didn't need to take. That's not the reason we lost the game. Sure, would I have loved to take Jake Locker and run him up inside? Yeah. (But) you know, I wasn't going to do that."
It's a balancing act Sarkisian has been doing all month.
Locker sustained a blow to the head in the fourth quarter and briefly left the game at USC early this month. He returned to lead the Huskies with his passing and his running on the final drive, which ended with UW's first road win in three years.
The following week at home against Arizona State, Locker had a bad head cold that made it tough for him to catch his breath. He also sustained a deep thigh bruise early in that game. Sarkisian called just three quarterback runs and Locker rarely threw on the move. Washington lost 24-14, tying last year's Stanford game for the fewest points in Sarkisian's two seasons at UW.
Then came Locker's wondrous game against Oregon State, which came despite the blow to the ribs.
True to his character and leadership, Locker has refused all month to use his aches as alibis for the Huskies' inconsistency. Washington has alternated wins and losses for eight consecutive games dating to last season.
"It's just that we made mistakes, I feel like it's kind of repetitive when I talk to you guys about this," Locker said. "Just assignment errors and stuff -- if we were a little more sound that game goes a little differently. And it's across the board.''
Sarkisian, a former star passer at Brigham Young, says he had many sore ribs when he played in the mid-1990s. So he knows how much that injury in particular affects a quarterback.
"It hurts a lot during the week," Sarkisian said. "But generally what happens when the game rolls around your adrenaline kicks in and you go play. And you wake up Sunday morning, you kind of roll over and take a deep breath, and (say) `OK, got another week to get right.'
"I think that's the mentality Jake's taken on and will continue to take on. He's a real warrior and a great competitor."