By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
TUCSON, Ariz. - Jake Locker is battered. The indispensible quarterback's sore ribs, shoulder and thigh limited the entire Huskies offense Saturday night at Arizona.
Ultimately though, the Huskies' still-developing defense - with aches of its own -- made that issue mostly moot.
Arizona rolled to 24 points and 315 yards by the midway through the second quarter, then converted a sack and fumble of the sore Locker on the first drive after halftime to clinch the 15th-ranked Wildcats' 44-14 race past Washington in the desert.
"You can't point to one group. It's on me. It's on everybody," Locker said of game in which the `Cats outgained the Dawgs 467-290.
"Nobody played a great game, but I'm not going to blame anything on my health."
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian called Arizona bolting to a huge early lead "the worst-case scenario." It forced the battered Locker to become more of a pocket passer against a defense that is the Pac-10's best at getting to quarterbacks.
Predictably, the Wildcats teed off.
Sarkisian didn't like the team's attention to little things all week.
"Saturday nights are not just about playing on Saturday nights. It's about attention to detail on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays," Sarkisian said when asked what his message was to the team following this deflation on the heels of a huge win over Oregon State.
For instance: The Huskies had some younger players miss study table on Thursday, an alarming indicator of a lack of discipline and readiness.
"I was surprised," the coach said of Saturday's result.
Washington (3-4, 2-2 Pac-10) fell to 2-2 against ranked teams this season. The Huskies now come home next weekend to host Stanford, which like Arizona is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference, one game behind national No. 1 Oregon.
The Huskies need to win three of their final five games to fulfill the goal they still had as they boarded their plane after midnight Sunday morning: their first bowl since 2002.
"We'll be OK," Sarkisian said. "We're a very resilient group."
Locker wore added padding across his midsection and was limited in his running far more than he was last week when he threw for five touchdowns in a wild win over Oregon State. The senior completed 17 of 29 passes for 183 yards and another touchdown throw to Jermaine Kearse, their fifth such connection in two games.
But Locker - who missed practice on Wednesday because coach Steve Sarkisian said his "whole body" was sore -- ran only six times for minus-24 yards, including sacks. He mostly looked to pass on his scrambles instead of run.
"He's banged up," Sarkisian said.
Locker, never one to make excuses, only said "my whole body is a little sore."
His coach said his health mattered.
His coach said that mattered big time.
"Sure, it changes our offense, in effect," Sarkisian said. "Coming in, we thought we would be able to run the ball better than we did.
"The game went the exact opposite way we wanted it to go."
Even more so on the other side of the ball. And it didn't help the defense was missing starting end Talia Crichton, defensive tackle Cameron Elisara and, for most of the night, starting outside linebacker Victor Aiyewa to injuries.
The Wildcats were just as lethal with fill-in Mark Scott throwing as they had been with Pac-10 passing leader Nick Foles was before he got hurt last week. Scott, supposedly a better runner, continually found open receivers in Washington's zone defenses with completing 16 of his first 18 throws into the third quarter. By the time he threw his third incompletion, Arizona led by 23 points.
"Everybody was making mistakes," linebacker Mason Foster said after his 10 tackles, two below his Pac-10-leading average.
Needing a strong start to the second half after Arizona rolled past them in the first two quarters to take a 30-14 lead into halftime, the Huskies experienced the exact opposite.
Wildcats defensive end Ricky Elmore, the Pac-10's leader in sacks entering the game, sacked Locker from behind while knocking the ball loose. Arizona recovered the fumble at the Huskies 26.
The Wildcats converted that into a 4-yard touchdown run by Nic Grigsby, and Arizona led 37-14. The game essentially ended there.
"We as a defense have to bounce back and make a play," said linebacker Cort Dennison, who led UW with 11 tackles.
Arizona didn't punt until 4½ minutes remained in the third quarter. The Wildcats had 404 yards of offense and its 23-point lead by then.
Arizona rolled to 314 yards in the first 1½ quarters after Keola Antolin ran 78 yards up the middle for a touchdown that made it 24-14 for the Wildcats.
"That's on me," Foster said of being out of position. "I need to make that play."
That was one scrimmage play after Chris Polk ran up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown to bring the Huskies within 17-14. Polk, who ran 14 times for 65 yards, had kept that drive alive with a nifty juke move in the open field on third down.
Arizona made it 30-14 late in the first half. Washington had the Wildcats stopped for a fourth and 3 at the UW 30, but Quinton Richardson was called for a face-mask personal foul to extend Arizona's drive. It ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by Grigsby.
Washington had a chance for a momentum-changing score just before halftime after a 43-yard pass from Locker to Cody Bruns. But a 10-yard dumping of Locker by the Pac-10's leaders in sacks ruined that Huskies chance, so Arizona had that 30-14 lead at the break.
Scott completed 14 of 16 passes for 186 yards in the opening half. And the Wildcats gained a whopping 356 yards in the first two periods.
"Fourteen of 16 in the first half - I wasn't anticipating that, at all," Sarkisian said of Arizona's backup, who began 2009 as its starter.
Locker was 11 for 19 throwing for 139 yards in the first half. He did some rollout throws but did not as many as in last week's win over Oregon State. He ran only two times in the half.
The Huskies were hyped even before getting into uniform. They arrived at stadium about 100 minutes before kickoff with the players rocking all three of their buses from side to side. And they came out just as hot.
Linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, a freshman making his first start, poked the ball out from behind after a catch by Arizona's Tobias Togi on the game's opening drive. Desmond Trufant recovered at the UW 38.
Locker then found Kearse for a 26-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly lofted throw to the back corner of the end zone, the same pattern and result that beat Oregon State in double overtime last week. Washington led 7-0 before many had gotten to their seats inside Arizona Stadium.
But then came Arizona's offensive onslaught.
"Just clean everything up," Foster said. "We don't want to be losing like this, that's the biggest thing.
"We're still in a position to do what we want to do this season."