Whatever Jake Locker had Saturday night (Oct. 9) must have been contagious. The UW quarterback’s apparent affliction seemed to send several thousand sickened partisans through the Husky Stadium exits after a shower-doused first half ended 21-7 Arizona State.
An hour or so later the Big Number for the Huskies wasn’t so much the 24-14 final as the 2-3 season record. It means the Dawgs need to find at least four more ways to win if they plan on playing during the post-season: an unlikely prospect.
Even from the vantage point of 30-yardline seats it was apparent early on that Locker, the engine, accelerator, and steering wheel on the UW offense, needed to be taken into the shop, if not the nearby hospital. He sailed passes and failed to break runs as the Dawg offense stalled during several possessions.
Later, when coach Steve Sarkisian revealed the illness that apparently had plagued the player much of the week, fans had perhaps the only answer they needed as to why a team that stunned USC on the road Oct. 2 poked and piddled around in the rain and blew another home game.
"We lost the element of [Locker] running around there," Sarkisian said to reporters after the game. "He'd run and he couldn't get back his breath for the entire drive.”
"I think I called three quarterback runs all night,” the coach said, adding that he wanted to be able to use Locker’s usually superb ground-game dimension but “I needed him to play four quarters. I don't think he could have made it."
As it turned out, Locker managed just six yards on 11 attempts, if “attempts” is what you could call them. That he somehow was able to complete 23 of 38 for 209 yards is testimony to what a gifted athlete can do even when afflicted with flu symptoms.
The matter now at hand: How does a club that plays inconsistently at home rally next Saturday against a conference foe at least as challenging as Arizona State? Oregon State comes to Seattle after outlasting nationally ninth-ranked Arizona on the road. Worse news for the pass-defense-challenged Huskies: The 3-2 Beavers had nearly 400 yards in the air even having lost their best receiver during the second quarter.
If nothing else, the vagaries of league play so far point to a conference as well balanced as many fans can remember. The eight teams between the best (Oregon, 6-0) and worst Washington State (1-5) seem capable of beating each other on any given Saturday. Even the Cougs showed for the second straight week that they can stay with the competition . . . for a quarter or so. They were down just 15-14 during the firsat half at home against the mighty (make that mighty, mighty) Ducks, eventually losing by 20 but beating the betting spread by three touchdowns.
As for Locker et al, presumably the star QB and teammates will be well for the Oregon State game, leaving fans to eat and drink merrily and hence risk getting sick in the old-fashioned game-day tradition.