Nov. 13, 2009
By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP SPORTS WRITER
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Washington quarterback Jake Locker holds no hard feelings over what happened to him last time he visited Corvallis.
It was two seasons ago and Locker was a redshirt freshman. He was scrambling on a third-down play, knowing he needed to get about 4 more yards for a first down. He ducked his head and ran, colliding headfirst with Oregon State's Al Afalava.
Locker stayed down for a long 15 minutes and did not appear to move while emergency workers attended to him. He was immobilized and taken off the field on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. The Huskies lost the game 29-23.
Thankfully, the injury was simply a stinger and a muscle strain, but Locker missed Washington's next game because he could barely turn his head.
Locker returns to Corvallis on Saturday when Washington (3-6, 2-4 Pacific-10) visits Oregon State (6-3, 4-2).
"The whole on-the-field experience is kind of cloudy for me. Like I said after, I didn't think there was any intentions of them trying to take me out of the game, any cheap shots," Locker recalled this week about the 2007 game. "I thought it was a clean hit and he caught me just right. Obviously a scary deal, something you hope to never go through again, but it won't change the way I play the game or the approach I take to it."
Washington, which made a splash under new coach Steve Sarkisian earlier this season by beating then-No. 3 USC 16-13, has lost three straight. The Huskies must win their final three games - against Oregon State, Washington State and California - to become bowl eligible.
Locker, who has passed for 2,203 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, said the Huskies still have a lot to be proud of this season.
After going 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham, Washington has improved dramatically under Sarkisian. Five of the Huskies' last seven games haven't really been decided until the last minute.
"I think the way we have played this year is something we can be proud of. We've had a chance to win a lot of football games," Locker said. "For one reason or another we haven't been able to pull them out in the end of some of them, but we've been in them and given ourselves the opportunity to win them by playing hard and giving it everything we have."
Locker broke his thumb last season and did not play when Oregon State visited Seattle and emerged with a 34-13 victory. James Rodgers racked up 216 all-purpose yards and had three touchdowns as the Beavers won their fifth straight against the Huskies.
James and younger brother Jacquizz pace the Beavers' offense this season.
James, a flanker, leads the conference and is ranked seventh nationally with an average of 179.89 yards total offense per game. He has caught six touchdowns and run for another.
Jacquizz, known as Quizz, ranks third in the Pac-10 and 15th nationally with an average 109.89 rushing yards per game. Last year's Pac-10 Player of the Year as a freshman, Quizz has rushed for 989 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has also caught 58 passes for 401 yards and another score. And he's passed for a touchdown out of Oregon State's wildcat formation.
The Beavers have won four of their last five games - the lone exception being a loss at USC - and are already bowl eligible. Last weekend they beat California 31-14 in Berkeley.
Given that Oregon State has just two conference losses and that league play has been wildly unpredictable (Washington's victory over the Trojans a case in point), the Beavers are still very much in the thick of things when it comes to the postseason.
And that means they cannot afford to overlook the Huskies.
"I try to remind everyone all the time that it's all about that game, and the game starts with the respect of the opponent. It will not take our team long to realize how good this team is and that they have a lot of great football players," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "They could easily have exactly the same record or even better than we do now."