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Locker Has Grown A Lot Since 2007 Debut At Syracuse
Release: 09/08/2010
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Sept. 8, 2010

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Gameday Central

By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

SEATTLE - Jake Locker made it look routine, a clockwork dismantling of the Orange.

Washington's senior quarterback had his collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman on Aug. 31, 2007, at Syracuse. Locker wowed his new team, the 50,000 or so inside Carrier Dome and a national television audience by running for 83 yards and two touchdowns, completing 14 of 19 passes and sending the Huskies off rolling to 444 yards of offense in a 42-12 win.

Washington's 2005 state player of the year from Ferndale High School makes his 30th college start on Saturday in the Dawgs' 2010 home opener - against Syracuse (1-0). Kickoff is 4:00 p.m. and the game will air live on FSN-Northwest.

Locker and his Huskies (0-1) wouldn't mind if the rematch replicates the original that launched his career from under a bubbled roof in upstate New York.

"It's kind of funny, it does seem like a long time ago," Locker said this week. "But I can also remember a lot of those plays very vividly.

"It was a good experience, a good first game, a good place to start your career off."

Good?

Locker didn't even play three quarters. He left when it was 35-6.

Afterward, tailback Louis Rankin - who ran for a then-career-high 147 yards and three scores that night - marveled over how cool the wunderkind was in his first college start.

"He seemed more calm in the game than he did in practice," Rankin said then.

Yet it was anything from ordinary. And Locker actually was far from cool. A hot, muggy summer in the East had not yet ended, and the dome named after an air conditioning company had none.

Among those sweltering inside with Locker were people from Ferndale. Not a few. A few hundred. Heck, it seemed most of Locker's native Whatcom County had trekked across the country to see their homegrown hero begin his long-awaited career at the UW.

So despite Rankin's impression, Locker wasn't the calmest dude in the dome that night.

"Yeah, I mean, obviously there are pre-game jitters being your first college game. I think I had butterflies a little bit," Locker said this week, with characteristic understatement.

Locker went on to set Washington freshman passing records with 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns that first season. His 2008 was ruined by a broken thumb on his passing hand in September. He returned last season to throw for the third-most yards passing in UW history, 2,800, while completing 58 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns as Washington had a five-win improvement from '08. Cody Pickett had 3,043 yards passing in 2003, and 4,458 yards in 2002, the season of the Huskies' last bowl appearance.

He entered this second season under coach Steve Sarkisian with what Sarkisian says is almost mastery of the offensive system. Last week Locker passed Sonny Sixkiller for fifth in career yards passing at Washington. Locker has 5,640 career yards, and will pass Marques Tuiasosopo and Damon Huard for third place if he throws for 247 yards on Saturday. In a few weeks, Locker should pass Brock Huard (6,391) for second, behind Pickett's 10,220 yards passing.

He could pass Pickett's mark of 40 career starts at quarterback if Washington reaches its goal of a bowl game this winter. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Locker's blend of size, speed and intangibles have him touted as possibly the first-overall choice in next spring's NFL draft.

He is coming off a 20-for-37, 266-yards passing performance last weekend at Brigham Young. Locker threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Yet he bemoaned missing on a few passes, including a final one knocked down by a BYU lineman with less than 2 minutes to play, that might very well have kept the Huskies from a 23-17 loss.

The fact that Locker, Sarkisian and most of the country viewed the performance as below standard shows how high expectations are at UW this season - and how much Locker has grown from that first night at Syracuse in 2007.

Sarkisian says he is seeking to refine the playbook to find the calls with which Locker and the rest of the offense is the most successful. There may not be a lot to refine. The number of plays Locker is comfortable running has grown exponentially since that steamy, dreamy debut against Syracuse four seasons and two head coaches ago.

"I just think overall, it's the decision-making process, the knowledge of our offense and the defenses that I'm seeing," Locker says. "As a player, that's probably where I've grown the most in the four years and been able to improve my game."

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