Playing with a broken rib but not a broken spirit, Locker energized the fans and teammates with his gutsiness. Every throw and run had to hurt, but he never let on, never winced, never gave up. His pluckiness permeated the whole team with enthusiasm.
The dark setting echoed the Huskies' black uniforms, with the Dawgs' defense playing like the Blackshirts of Nebraska -- who tutored them in defense this season -- intercepting three passes and limiting the Bruins to just 163 total yards.
The winning formula was simple. To win the game, Washington had to keep UCLA under 200 yards rushing. In their four prior wins, the "Blue" had rushed for more than 210 yards, and, in their five previous losses, they had been held under 200 yards rushing.
Stop their pistol offense, which features a dominating running attack, and you stop the Bruins.
The Dawgs countered the pistol with the old switcheroo attack, limiting it to 108 yards rushing, while accumulating 253 yards on the ground themselves. RB Chris Polk, who is out of the Inland Empire (IE), tattooed the Bruins with 138 yards rushing. He has a large block IE tattooed on one of his arms, which he showed off to the camera, puzzling the ESPN crew. Duh!
True freshman Jessie Callier posted 107 yards on 10 carries.
The game was up for grabs until the fourth quarter, with Washington nursing a 10-7 lead. This was a night when the Huskies converted on only 1 of 12 third down attempts and were shooting themselves in the foot with drive-killing penalties.
For the Bruins, the ending played out like a macabre scene from Macbeth, dark setting and all.
It began when starting UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut left with a concussion in the third quarter after a hard hit from Nate Williams. He was replaced by third-teamer Darius Bell, who threw a pivotal interception to Quinton Richardson, who ran the ball back 28 yards for a touchdown that extended Washington's lead to 17-7 with 6:22 left.
The Bruins' OC, Norm Chow (or someone else?), had a third stringer throwing on a second and 17 from his own 15? Give me a break. A close game was split wide open at the seams -- the fat lady singing -- by some questionable decision making, with knowledge beforehand that this was not a night for throwing the ball.
It's hard enough for a QB to get into a rhythm when it's cold and damp, let alone throwing a neophyte at quarterback, better known for his running than passing skills, into the fray and expecting him to complete a long pass while buried deep in his own territory.
As an aggregate, the three Bruin quarterbacks posted a wretched PE of 18.48.
"Chow" aside, the bottom line is that the Huskies won the game up front, on both sides of the ball. They attacked the Bruins' defensive collar, leaving it frayed, and took the bang out of their pistol, leaving it silent.
"When you get late in the season
like this, your ability to play good defense and run the
ball comes in handy," coach Steve Sarkisian said. He
added that he went to a conservative game plan
in part to take the pressure off Locker, who hadn't played
since Oct. 30.
Although Locker posted some mediocre numbers passing, he was limited by a broken rib, some spotty pass protection, and the cold, damp conditions. A couple of catchable balls were dropped, and a 30-yard completion was called back because of a penalty. The Huskies spiritual leader completed 10 of 21 passes for 68 yards and one pick. His passing efficiency (PE) works out to 65.30. He scored Washington's first touchdown, which tied the score at 7, on a three-yard run.
The indomitable Locker is never one to point a finger. I'll do the finger pointing, when I believe those who are quick to criticize him are being unfair. Playing behind a poor offensive line, which seems to be reincarnated in another form after every week, Jake, who is as humble as they come and who has been beset by an unrealistic season's expectation, makes for an easy target. He should never have been saddled with the Heisman hype, in view of the fact that the Huskies are rebuilding.
If sport writers were logical, they wouldn't have many human interest stories to write. The blokes have to make a living, but caveat emptor, fans.
Former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel is 3-1 against the Dawgs, having beaten them the last two times out and once in the 1996 Holiday Bowl when he coached Colorado.
The Huskies (4-6) haven't swept the southland since 1996.
They need to win their last two games on the road, against Cal and WSU, to be bowl eligible.
Will the spirit of this eerie night, with Dawgs gowling at Bruins, spirit itself to Berkeley?
More IE stuff (you know, Polk's tattoo)
"Will the Utes even be bowl eligible next year?" a well-known poster asks on dawgman.com. Note that Deontae Cooper is from Perris.
Dunno, but one of last week's local editions featured a story on QB Derrick Brown, who is out of Vista Murrieta and who has verbally committed to Utah. He's 6-foot-3, 240 and is averaging 46 yards per punt. Sounds like the next Jake Locker if you were to believe all the writer's hype about his speed, laser passing and thuggish athleticism (i.e., a brute to tackle). He's got some smarts; he carries a 3.1 GPA.