SEATTLE — When University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker walks onto the playing surface at Oregon State’s football stadium this weekend, he might have some bad memories.
He just hopes that, this time, he’ll be able to walk off of it.
The only other time Locker has played a game at Reser Stadium, he was taken off the field on a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital. A big hit by Beavers safety Al Afalava left Locker motionless on the turf for several minutes in the Nov. 11, 2007, game.
Thankfully, Locker suffered no more than a sprained neck and was back on the field for the Huskies’ next game.
“The whole on-the-field experience is kind of cloudy for me,” Locker said on Monday, recalling that 2007 game at Reser Stadium. “Like I said after (the game): I didn’t think there were any intentions of them trying to take me out of the game, any cheap shots. I thought it was a clean hit, and he caught me just right.
“Obviously, it was a scary deal, something you hope to never go through again. But it won’t change the way I play the game or the approach I take to it.”
Locker has been banged up throughout his three seasons as the UW starter, and this year is no different. He had a deep thigh bruise heading into last Saturday’s game at UCLA but said that the injury is no longer bothering him.
“I’m fine,” he said Monday.
Locker took part in Monday’s practice and is expected to make his 10th consecutive start for the Huskies this Saturday at Oregon State.
Losing his touch?
After spending the first three weeks of the 2009 season handling his play chart with a Midas touch, UW coach Steve Sarkisian has come under some scrutiny as of late.
And Monday’s press conference had more of the same.
Sarkisian was asked about two elements in particular of Saturday’s 24-23 loss to UCLA.
The biggest source of media inquiries involved Sarkisian’s decision not to call a timeout after a controversial touchdown reception by UCLA receiver Terrence Austin in the third quarter.
Television replays showed that the ball may have touched the ground before it popped into the air and into Austin’s hands. Officials did not give the play a second look, and Sarkisian said after the loss that he didn’t want to waste a timeout by asking for a replay.
On Monday, Sarkisian said that he actually did try to get a timeout — only it was too late.
“My assumption (was) that the play (was) going to get reviewed,” Sarkisian said Monday. “It’s a tight ball game, (so) I didn’t want to have to use a timeout if I didn’t need to. But as it unfolded, as they were getting ready to kick their extra point, I attempted to go down the sidelines and get a timeout. And I wasn’t able to get it done.”
Sarkisian was also asked why he didn’t feature running back Chris Polk more in the game. Polk had 91 rushing yards on his first four carries but got just 11 more attempts the rest of the game.
Sarkisian said that Polk’s big runs — three of his first four carries went for 26 yards or longer — came on draw plays, adding that the game plan was to use the pass to set up the run. It worked just as the coaches had expected, so he didn’t want to change philosophies as the game went along.
“To go up against that UCLA team — the way we are built, the way they are built — to line up in I-right and try to run right at them was not to our advantage,” he said. “Our advantage was to try to spread them out let Jake (Locker) play catch and then slip runs at them. And it worked well for us.”
Several players, including four starters, were limited at Monday night’s practice.
Defensive tackle Cameron Elisara continues to be held out of contact due to a neck stinger. Sarkisian said he has yet to be cleared for action but has not ruled Elisara out of Saturday’s game at Oregon State.
Polk (ribs) and safety Jason Wells (foot) are also hobbled but should start Saturday.
Sarkisian said that linebacker E.J. Savannah, who continues to sit out after undergoing surgery on a broken thumb, could practice at some point this week and might play Saturday.
Sarkisian has not decided who will start at left tackle Saturday. Drew Schaefer replaced Ben Ossai as the starter in Saturday’s loss to UCLA, but they both played. Ossai was being reprimanded for breaking a team rule. The disciplinary action won’t factor into which one starts this Saturday, Sarkisian said. Schaefer took most of the snaps at Monday’s practice. … After losing five of six games, Sarkisian was asked Monday whether his team might be in danger of losing confidence. “We won’t let it happen,” he said. “It won’t happen.” … While freshman wide receiver James Johnson continues to lead the Huskies in receptions, with 36, he has caught only a single pass in two of UW’s last four games. Johnson has dropped four passes in that same span. But Locker said he still has confidence in the freshman phenom. “He’s a kid that, when the game is on the line, I’d go to,” Locker said.