Sept. 15, 2007
Locker should expect more chances to deal with trouble on Saturday.
No. 10 Ohio State will bring the nation's top-ranked defense into Husky Stadium, which is expected to be sold out for the first time in four years. Against the Buckeyes, who have lost just once in the last 22 games, Huskies fan will find out just how far resurgent Washington has come.
"This is huge," Washington senior linebacker Dan Howell said of the Buckeyes' first trip to Seattle since 1994. "You're getting the best coming to your stadium. This opportunity doesn't come by very often."
Ohio State is looking for improvement after lackluster wins against Youngstown State and Akron and with Big Ten play a week away.
Washington is trying to return to national prominence after years of futility and turmoil.
"The time is now," said senior cornerback Roy Lewis, the Pac-10 defensive player of the week.
The Huskies, behind Locker running the spread offense plus a surprisingly stout defense, are 2-0 for the first time since 2001. Last week's 24-10 win over Boise State was their first win over a ranked team since Tyrone Willingham arrived in 2005.
"This is their saving game," Ohio State center Jim Cordle said. "This is a game that they can all of a sudden be on a pedestal nationally. They can show who they are."
Ohio State -- led by linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Nagurski Award winner as the top defensive player in the country last season -- has allowed two field goals and a safety through two games, the team's fewest points allowed through two weeks since 1996.
"I think AP voters and coaches will look at this game and say, 'Is this team for real?" Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington said of Washington.
"It's a statement game for both teams. Washington is back on track, with coach Willingham. This is a huge game for both teams, both programs -- both conferences even."
The Buckeyes' offense, with quarterback Todd Boeckman replacing Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, had five turnovers last week in a 20-2 win over Akron. Chris "Beanie" Wells had a career-high 143 yards rushing last week -- but just 46, on 16 carries, against Youngstown State.
Washington has been gushing over Wells' combination of speed and power.
"You don't look at those two games as the true indicator of their offensive skill," Willingham said. "You've got a back who is darn, darn good."
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel has been saying "we're a young team" almost as much as he wears a sweater vest. Only 10 starters are back from last season's team.
"We're kind of a work in progress, more so on offense," Tressel said.
Tressel said Boeckman, a junior who was the No. 3 QB last season, is still raw.
Boeckman has never played a big road game. On Saturday, Washington hopes Husky Stadium is rocking the way it used to when Don James was coaching Rose Bowl teams.
"He may have seen environments that were exciting and loud -- like at Penn State and Michigan. But that was while standing on the sidelines in a ball cap, signaling plays," Tressel said.
"Quite frankly, he and we both need it."
This week, Ohio State brought in former coach Earle Bruce to talk to the team. In 1986, he led the Buckeyes -- then also ranked 10th -- into Seattle. They got clobbered 40-7. Bruce warned these Buckeyes about the environment at Husky Stadium, how the steel, cantilevered roofs that shield each upper deck from rain act as megaphones that funnel noise onto the field.
"I'm not saying it's like a Washington, but going to Texas last year also helped us to see the different atmosphere and how crazy it can be," Worthington said.