Don’t let Locker regret his choice

It’s probably a little premature to be worrying about this just yet, seeing as he’s a redshirt freshman and all, but please, Huskies, please don’t waste the Jake Locker era at Washington.

Don’t ever let a near 500-yard virtuoso performance turn into a loss again.

Sure Locker deserves some of the blame for Saturday’s 48-41 loss to Arizona, having turned the ball over four times, but if 336 yards passing, 157 yards rushing, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns aren’t enough from their 19-year-old quarterback, then this team is in a world of trouble.

“He had a couple of mistakes that you can’t have, but without him, we don’t have much of a chance,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said Saturday after the loss. “He was unbelievable today. He played his heart out.”

It was unclear if Lappano meant “We don’t have much of a chance” without Locker in the Arizona game, or in general, but either way, he’s right. In Washington’s first eight games, Locker has accounted for 2,223 of Washington’s 2,943 total yards. That’s 75.5 percent, folks. Contrast that with Dennis Dixon, whose Oregon Ducks run a somewhat similar offense to Washington. While Dixon has more total yards (2,377) than Locker, he accounts for just 56.7 percent of Oregon’s offense.

Saturday had a chance to be Locker’s signature breakout moment, a chance to celebrate the future of Washington football. Instead it fell apart and became loss number six. Locker couldn’t enjoy his big game. He found no comfort in posting the second-highest yardage total in school history.

“I’d much rather have had five yards rushing and four picks and won the game,” he said. “It’s frustrating. Personal stats mean nothing.”

Washington’s latest loss all but killed the Huskies’ hopes at success for 2007 — the stated goal before the season was a winning record and a bowl game. To do that they would now need to win five in a row, and it’s hard to picture a team on a six game losing streak — the fourth such streak in as many years, by the way — suddenly winning it’s last five games, which include a home game against Cal.

A season that started with two wins and so much hope now looks awfully bleak. One of the few bright spots for Husky fans is the knowledge that they have a star in the making at quarterback. But he still needs help, from the defense most of all.

After struggling early in the season, the Washington offense has shown improvement in each of the past two games, but the defense hasn’t been able to match the improvement. Two games ago, Oregon rushed for a school-record 465 yards against the Huskies. On Saturday, Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama passed for a school-record 510 yards. That’s not the kind of record-setting defense the Huskies want to have.

Locker is never going to publicly complain about things at Washington. He’ll say that he hates losing, but he’d never start pointing fingers at teammates, or say he should have gone to USC or Texas. That’s just not Jake. But for a guy who lost just two games in his final two years of high school football, the losses have to be taking their toll.

“We understand that we’re in this together, and the only way we’re going to get out of it is together,” said Locker. “There’s no point in pointing fingers and getting on one another. The only way to get through this is to be there for each other and support each other, and that’s what we plan on doing.”

The problem is, Locker is doing more supporting than the rest of the team, especially the defense.

It will be a shame if college football fans never get to see Locker on a big national stage. A November game with major bowl implications, a Rose Bowl, or — what the hell, let’s think big here — a national championship game.

Locker confirmed Saturday what has been suspected since he was a high school phenom in Ferndale; that he can be a great — not serviceable, not good — a great college football player. He’s a freakish combination of speed, power, arm strength, leadership, and character. So please, Huskies, don’t make him regret bringing all of that to Montlake.

Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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