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Northwest Showdown With OSU On Tap Saturday Night
Release: 10/15/2010
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Oct. 15, 2010

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GoHuskies Live: UW vs. Oregon State

Game Coverage
Gametracker Live Audio Gameday Central
TV: ESPN Radio: Washington ISP Sports Network

by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

SEATTLE - Jake Locker has a message for his Huskies this weekend, and it's one of renewal.

Look within.

"We just have to have a confidence in what we're doing," Washington's indispensible quarterback and team leader said in advance of Saturday night's homecoming game against 24th-ranked Oregon State (3-2, 2-0 Pac-10). "No matter who our opponent is, worry less about the guys across the ball from us, and more about ourselves, and I think we'll be all right."

It was Locker's way of explaining how Washington (2-3, 1-1) could confidently steamroll USC while winning on the road two weeks ago, then fail to get in gear last week while losing to Arizona State at Husky Stadium.

He was also being characteristically modest about his own impact.

Locker played perhaps his best and most complete game at UW when he had 420 total yards and determinedly led the Huskies on the winning drive that beat the Trojans on the final play to begin this month. Then last weekend, a bad head cold and deep thigh bruise kept him from running and all but eliminated him from throwing outside on the run.

The result was a more one-dimensional offense -- and a 14-point night that tied for the lowest production in coach Steve Sarkisian's two seasons at UW.

But now Locker is relatively healthy again. His shortness of breath is gone. And while the leg is still bruised, Locker says it is minor and Sarkisian says Locker looks fine.

He will start against the rugged Beavers, in yet another huge opportunity for the Huskies to stay near the front of a jumbled Pac-10 race.

Kickoff is at 7:15 p.m. ESPN has the telecast, the Washington ISP Sports Network has the radio call, and has Gametracker, a live, in-game chat plus the live radio feed by subscription.

Oregon State has been tested often so far this season - against fourth-ranked Texas Christian, at No. 3 Boise State, at 17th-ranked Arizona in an upset win last week.

Nick Holt's eyes got wide at the thought the Beavers have had it rough.

"I think our schedule's been pretty hard, too," Washington's fiery defensive coordinator said, before his 48th birthday arrived on Friday.

Washington has beaten then-18th ranked USC and lost to No. 8 Nebraska. After the Beavers, the Huskies go to Arizona, come home to face No. 14 Stanford, then travel to second-ranked Oregon, the undefeated conference co-leader with Oregon State.

If the Cardinal, Ducks and Wildcats remain in the Associated Press poll over the next two weeks, Washington will have faced six ranked teams in seven games as of Nov. 7.

"We've got a very mentally tough football team," Sarkisian said. "They've dealt with a lot of adversity, not only this year but over their careers. They've shown time and time again to be able to battle back, and we'll come and play hard Saturday night."

The game is yet another of what Sarkisian sees as wonderful opportunities: playing inside Husky Stadium with 65,000-plus rowdies, roaring at a Northwest rival Washington first began playing in 1897.

"We've got great fans, and the atmosphere is so good, especially at night. We feel like we owe it to our fans to put our best foot forward," Sarkisian said. "And we'll go do it again Saturday night. We're gonna play hard, that's for sure."

Oregon State's biggest issue is the loss of dynamic receiver James Rodgers to a season-ending knee injury last weekend. But the Beavers still have his brother, do-it-all Jacquizz Rodgers.

"Obviously, you've got to know where No. 1 is," Sarkisian said of Jacquizz. "He's the guy that makes their engine go on offense."

Jacquizz Rodgers went for 159 yards rushing last season against Washington, but this week he was bemoaning Oregon State's slumping rushing game that managed just 2.7 yards per carry last week at Arizona. Ryan Katz's 393 yards and two touchdowns passing led that Beavers win.

Locker has the running of Chris Polk to ease his load on the Huskies' offense. Polk had his second 100-yard rushing game last week against ASU. It was the seventh 100-yard day in the sophomore's one-plus seasons for Washington.

This week, Polk and the Huskies' versatile, deep offensive line gets a 311-pound test, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea. The force teammates call "The Hulk" passed up a chance to play in the NFL last year to return to Corvallis for his senior season.

"Paea's probably the best defensive tackle in the country," Sarkisian said. "So you'd better try and block 54 in the run game and the pass game if you're going to try and get a first down."

Locker and his Huskies are aware of that. But they are more aware of themselves than they've been all season.

"Last year against Oregon State was physical: They always play physical. They play hard. We understand that," Locker said.

"Like I said, more than anything this week 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."

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