last, Washington redshirt freshman Jake Locker has made his debut at quarterback
-- and it was nothing short of spectacular. It was the most anticipated
debut of a Washington player since Hugh McElhenny in 1949; in the second
game of the 1949 season, Hurrying Hugh raced the opening kickoff back 97
yards for a touchdown against Minnesota on the road. His lightening
gallop--a seminal run in Husky history--shocked the partisan crowd,
electrified Husky fans and etched Seattle boldly onto the map.
Over the years, players have gotten bigger, stronger and
Going back to that era of Husky football in a comparative
anatomy mode, you might say that
Locker has the legs of McElhenny, the arm of Don Heinrich and the hulking
size of Arnie Weinmeister, all rolled up into a 19-year old quarterback.
I canít ever remember watching a first-time-out-of-the-box
Husky quarterback looking any better than Locker -- with so much potential -- as he debuted for the Purple and
Gold, and I have been a fan of Washington for longer than I care to
remember. (Reference the names above).
Willingham has kept Locker and his teammates under wraps since spring
practice began by restricting the media's presence to just the first 25
minutes of practices. In the past, before Willingham came to Washington, the
local media have proved to be nothing but trouble makers, bent on creating
controversies that have proved distracting to the Washington football team.
Our site has supported Willingham's blanket of secrecy since he came to
Washington in December of 2004.
Purple cloud of anonymity paid off brilliantly in the surreal Orange
atmosphere, the media in dismay.
Consider this setting: a weird, domed stadium with an
inflated roof located 2200 miles away from home; a hostile crowd on hand;
the eastern mafia, in the personage of an ESPN TV crew, that was ready to
pounce on the Pac10 conference -- ESPN also had the Tennessee/Cal game in
mind -- to champion its canard that says the SEC
is college football's strongest conference, even though Syracuse is a Big
East team. To them, the Pac-10 must prove
itself each year; forget its many past accomplishments and the fact it has
won more NCAA championships than any other conference.
(I will say this for the
motley crew of broadcasters, their high definition TV broadcast and digital
track gave me the feeling that I was at the game.)
The hostile setting didnít stop the young quarterback from
displaying his wares, which were aided by an outstanding performance from
his offensive line and, as a consequence, by running back Louis Rankin, who rushed 17 times for
142 yards. Once Locker established himself as a runner to be reckoned with,
Rankin came to the fore.
Montlake Jake rushed for 83 yards and
two touchdowns on 10 carries, and completed 14 of 19 passes for 142 yards.
His passing efficiency was 136.46 on the night.
Locker is downright gifted and, on this night, he showed
poise, a smooth delivery, a strong arm and a timely, crushing running style. For all of his poise, he could have been playing in the
Senior Bowl or the East/West game. No, I wonít say heís ready for the Super
Bowl; he has a lot to learn, this by his own admission.
He looks like Vince Young one of the announcers said after
Locker outran a linebacker.
media gathering in Los Angeles last
July, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said
that Locker is the type of athlete that can turn a program around. You know, he could be right.
Now I can see why head coach Tyrone Willingham was so
effusive in his praise for Locker when he met with UW alumni and boosters in
Palm Springs last March. I thought that Tyrone had gone mad. As a coach with
an immense amount of character, Willingham has the aura of a winner about him.
to temper our enthusiasm about this team and Locker, though.
Syracuse hasnít had a winning season since 2001; likewise, UWís last winning
season was in 2002, long, long ago. In our preview
of the two teams, both of them posted feckless numbers on our Six-stat
comparator, with UW leading Syracuse 78.8 to 98.5. Last season, Stanford
posted a 100.2 on that scale, as a comparative measure.
these stats in mind, you
could say this was the Stanford game all over again, with UW prevailing
this time instead of losing 20-3. The Pac-10 media brigade predicted a
last-place finish for Stanford in the 2007 conference race.
Saturday, Washington plays Boise State in a
Jake-by-the-Lake setting at Husky Stadium. I look for UW to win.