With a resounding five touchdown performance by Jake Locker leading the way, the University of Washington Huskies pounded nineteenth-ranked Cal 42-10. The home win was a fitting capstone for a resurgent program that in no way reminds me of the shambling, disorganized, under-coached, under-recruited Huskies of recent years. Finishing at 5-7 under first-year Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, the team won its’ final two games by a combined sixty-two point margin. Locker and the offense have been solid all season, if not always consistent, but perhaps the most encouraging element of the final games was the improvement in the defense. It hardly seems possible that this is a team just one season removed from an 0-12 debacle, and an overall 11-37 record in four seasons under former Head Coach Tyrone Willingham.
Locker’s stock with NFL scouts has skyrocketed this season, and with three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns today, Locker may find himself so highly regarded that he’ll be a very high pick in the NLF draft, should he choose to make himself available. Locker was 19-23 for 250 yards passing, and rushed for 82 yards on just 13 carries. Locker’s performance notwithstanding, the Huskies team has come together, with the defense improving and managing to stop an earlier season trend of giving up big plays. The improvement from zero to five wins in a single season marked just the eleventh time since 1945 that a team managed such a turnaround. And, if not for last-minute losses to Notre Dame, UCLA and Arizona State, the team might have managed an even greater turnaround and even earned a bowl berth. It was great to see the program improve so much in tangible results such as wins, but also in intangible ways harder to put into words, but resoundingly present. This team and program resembled a nice outboard motorboat after last year’s leaking tow man raft (with only one paddle). Not the cigarette boat fans hope to see sometime in the next few years, but an amazing and doubtless extremely encouraging improvement year-over-year as well as over the course of this season’s twelve games. Fans were heard chanting “Stay, Jake, stay” at Husky Stadium today and it sure will be fun if he does stick around for another season. Unless the Seahawks could end up with Locker via the draft (a longshot to be sure), I selfishly would love to see him play another year, and see where he might lead this team .
I recall the feeling of the eighties and early nineties under Coach Don James, and while there is a long ways yet to go before it is anything but breathless hyperbole to compare this team and program with that of the earlier era, it is clear that the team is heading in the right direction. Quickly.