Oct. 9, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The Washington Huskies just got a sickening reminder of what they -- and everyone else -- already knew.
Jake Locker is indispensible.
One week after Locker quarterbacked a mammoth win over the Trojans on the road with 420 total yards that revitalized the Huskies' season, the senior co-captain played while wickedly sick and out of breath. He could barely run. When he tried, it affected his throws.
After the Huskies' defense got swamped early by fast-breaking Arizona State, the ailing Locker couldn't keep the offense at ASU's pace. The result was a deflating, 24-14 loss to the Sun Devils before 65,685 on a wet Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
At one point while frantically trying to rally the Huskies in the fourth quarter, Locker took a knee in front of the UW bench during a time out. Locker was sick enough that he was unavailable to speak to the press after the game, as he always does.
"We feel like Jake is Superman. We feel like Jake can do whatever," receiver Jordan Polk said. "He just battled."
In that context, it was the stuff of Clark Kent as a superhero that Locker managed to complete 23 of 38 throws for 209 yards and one touchdown pass. He added another, gritty score on the ground.
"I don't think we got 100 percent of him tonight." Sarkisian said of Locker, whose one interception came inside the final 2, desperate minutes.
Locker ran 11 times for six yards. Almost all of those came while scrambling to avoid an ASU pass rush that was in his face at the same rate the rain fell: all night.
"We lost the element of him running around there," Sarkisian said. "He'd run, and he couldn't get back his breath for the entire drive.
"I think I called three quarterback runs all night. Sure, I would have liked to get him out running more. ... (but) I needed him to play four quarters. I don't think he could have made it."
Locker was still getting treatment inside the locker room 40 minutes after the game.
Sarkisian focused this week on not bringing his Huskies back down to Earth because, as he said of beating USC again, "this is Earth."
But the Huskies (2-3, 1-1 Pac-10) then allowed Arizona State (3-3, 1-2) to roll up 259 yards and 21 points in the first half. They spent the rest of the night chasing in vain, as Washington lost its seventh consecutive game to the Sun Devils.
"It's a big shocker," said Polk, who had three catches for 40 yards filling in for Devin Aguilar. Aguilar sat out after he sustained a hip injury on the final play of Thursday's practice.
"To play USC down there like that and win, and then to have this happen, we just didn't play the way we're supposed to play," Polk said.
The Huskies now regroup to play at home against Oregon State next week, knowing the Pac-10 race is still up for grabs. Oregon is the only team unbeaten in conference play.
"We know it's wide open," safety and co-captain Nate Williams said of the conference. "We weren't the only (Pac-10) team that lost tonight."
Previously unbeaten Stanford, supposedly resurgent UCLA and favored Stanford all lost Saturday night.
Locker's rushing score came in a poor first half that essentially decided the game.
ASU had lost nine consecutive games to schools from the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Sun Devils' only wins this season had been against lower-division Portland State and Northern Arizona.
But Arizona State quarterback Steven Threet threw for 209 yards of his 288 total yards passing in the first half, and the Sun Devils took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Washington went into the locker room knowing it could jumpstart its comeback by having the ball to begin the second half. But all the Huskies got was Erik Folk's first missed field goal in eight attempts this season, from 47 yards in the rain and breeze off Lake Washington. The third quarter ended with Arizona State still up 21-7.
Then on a fourth and 2 from the ASU 16, Locker found time on a bootleg play, rolled left, then found Goodwin for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Goodwin's second career touchdown got Washington within 21-14 with 14:22 to play.
But the Huskies went three and out after an interception by linebacker Cort Dennison on a deflected pass at the ASU 30.
After Washington's punt, Arizona State needed just six plays - one of them a 22-yard run by Kyle Middlebrooks to get in position for a 23-yard field goal by Thomas Weber. That put the Sun Devils up 24-14 with 6:32 left.
Locker then went cold with some errant throws. He was hit as he threw short on his last one of the subsequent drive, on fourth down from his own 35 and 5:35 remaining.
Arizona State's final drive of the opening half epitomized the Huskies' frustrating night.
Locker threw two of his worst passes of the half incomplete, then had Jermaine Kearse allow a what would have been a first-down catch go through his hands on fourth down. Arizona State then moved 65 yards in just 42 seconds. Threet simply took three steps, pitched a jump ball pass to the side of the end zone, and ASU's Mike Willie caught it for a 20-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
On the Huskies sideline, defensive coordinator Nick Holt was doing one-on-one counseling with the secondary for much of the night. Holt ended each mini session with pats on the back or head.
Freshman Jesse Callier's 51-yard kickoff return answered Arizona State's first touchdown, a Steven Threet touchdown pass of 4 yards to Gerell Robinson in the first quarter. Callier's romp set up Locker for a 14-yard pass to D'Andre Goodwin on third and 6, and then a twisting, fighting, 2-yard touchdown run by Locker. That tied the game at 7, but only briefly.
Locker completed seven of his first 10 passes, four of them to Goodwin, his emerging senior classmate and late hero of the win at USC last week.
But the Huskies defense could not contain ASU's no-huddle, wide-open offense early. Threet answered Washington's tying score with a 40-yard pass to Willie on the first play of the next drive. That set up Threet's 1-yard run that had Washington back down 14-7 and kept the Huskies in chase mode the rest of the night.
"We weren't ourselves today," Chris Polk said. "We weren't making the plays that we would usually make.
"But we'll get that fixed.