April 25, 2009
By TIM BOOTH
AP SPORTS WRITER
SEATTLE -- Any questions about Jake Locker's throwing ability after surgery to repair a broken thumb were quickly put to rest Saturday during Washington's spring game.
And Locker seemed to have a solid grasp of new coach Steve Sarkisian's offense as well.
Missing on just one pass in each half - both times hitting receivers in the hands - Locker completed 16 of 18 passes for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns as he led the Purple team to a 33-0 win over the White team.
Locker hadn't seen the field in a game situation since last September, when he broke the thumb on his throwing hand against Stanford, part of the Huskies' 0-12 record and the worst season in school history. While Saturday's effort came against the Huskies' No. 2 defense and in a controlled setting where Locker wasn't getting hit, the performance was what Locker and his coaches wanted to see.
"I felt pretty good throwing the ball. I knew where I was going," Locker said. "It felt like we were always moving forward, which is good."
An estimated crowd of 10,000 turned out at Husky Stadium to see the glorified scrimmage on a partly cloudy afternoon.
In addition to Locker's performance, Sarkisian's debut was also part of the intrigue. The new coach has enamored Washington supporters with a style that is open to fans and alumni. Among those attending Saturday were about 200 former players, including past star quarterbacks Warren Moon and Marques Tuiasosopo.
Sarkisian's pro-style offense looked flawless. Receivers ran free in the secondary as Locker hit them with almost perfect accuracy. Running back Chris Polk showed the spark expected from him last year as a freshman, running for 95 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries as the Huskies' No. 1 offense rolled up 165 yards rushing.
But Washington's top offense was supposed to look good. That was the reason the game's format was No. 1 offense versus No. 2 defense and vice versa, to help give the Huskies' starters a confidence boost headed into the summer.
The real test comes in September when LSU comes to Seattle for Sarkisian's first regular season game as a head coach.
"It was fun to watch our kids play football, good and bad," Sarkisian said. "They had to play. It wasn't scripted; their coaches weren't in the huddle with them."
Kearse jumped out as Locker's favorite target with five catches for 70 yards. But Kearse was shaking his head about a drop that hit him in the chest and was Locker's only misfire in the first half, when he hit on 12 of 13 throws.
"Whenever you have a season like that (last year) you want to get back on the field as soon as possible - especially for me, because I felt like there was a lot I could have done (for) both leadership and on the field," Butler said. "You always try and look back at what the problem was last year and try and correct those mistakes."