Locker's lob not the difference

It was only one point; it might as well have been fifty. Washington's 28-27 loss to No. 15 BYU was the Cougars' first non-conference road win in seven years. It also bumped their current win streak to 12. And for a Husky team trying to do everything it can to scratch and claw their way to win number one, a most ironic call apparently took it all away. Or did it?

The irony behind the unsportsmanlike penalty called against quarterback Jake Locker during his apparent game-tying touchdown was that it was neither unsportsmanlike and it happened to a team that is one of the best in the country when it comes to avoiding penalties. But it was the mental breakdown behind the play that seemingly has the Huskies fit not to be tied.

"After scoring the touchdown, the player threw the ball into the air and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty," referee Larry Farina - a Pac-10 official - said after the game. "It is a celebration rule that we are required to call. It was not a judgement call."

UW Head Coach Tyrone Willingham and Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano agreed the called needs to be made when an unsportsmanlike play occurs. "I don't think you make that call," Lappano said. "I don't agree with it.

"By no means did he mean any disrespect to BYU. He wasn't taunting anybody. Everyone knows that's not the type of kid he is. He was celebrating with his teammates. But it's a penalty, he understands the deal, and that was a tough lesson to learn."

This football team appears to be so snakebit that only at Montlake will you find the quarterback that led his team to a gritty comeback have to apologize to his teammates afterward when the 35-yard PAT he was responsible for get blocked. And even more ironic, the BYU sideline exploded into celebration after the kick, prompting another 'required' unsportsmanlike penalty.

By that time it was all moot. And all because of the emotion that comes with playing a football game. "I didn't even really realize I had done it," Locker said of his terrible toss. "I had scored the touchdown and jumped up and the ball just flew in the air. I was excited and I was celebrating with my team. Honestly it was just a reaction, I didn't think about it and it wasn't something I premeditated like 'oh, I'm gonna throw it up in the air if I score', but in hindsight it's something I shouldn't have done."

In reality, however, Locker's play shouldn't have been a big deal. "It's still one we count on ourselves to be able to protect and get off the kick," Willingham said of the subsequent long extra point.

"I asked (Assistant Coach) Paul Tidwell if there was any chance they could have the nerve to fake it and he said, 'there's always a chance.'" BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the game. "So I said, 'all out rush.' And the players nodded like they believed they could block it. They were smiling."

So they were the ones.

As they move forward, the Huskies also have to count on themselves for making sure that all 33 players - 11 on offense, 11 on defense and 11 on special teams - contribute to a total team effort, not just one person putting the program on his back.

"As hard as it is, we have to have other guys step up and make plays," Lappano said, noting that he only had one designed run for Locker all day until the called QB draw to score the Huskies' last touchdown. "I'm not going to beat that kid (Locker) into the ground and ruin his career. But you don't know how bad I want to call his number all the time, but he's gassed.

"My wife noticed it on the TV last week. You could tell he was fatigued."

While conditioning has been an issue, the distressing part of Washington's team effort Saturday was the ineffectiveness of the defense for the second-straight week. After giving up 496 total yards against Oregon, the Huskies surrendered 475 more, 338 through the air. BYU quarterback Max Hall played the whole game basically untouched, as UW's mix of 3-4 and 4-3 resulted in no sacks and only one tackle for loss.

"There's no question we're not happy these first two weeks," UW Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said. "It's nothing close to (the) Husky standard. But we are thinking about what we can do better to teach these guys. Is there a better alignment we can put them in? What can we do to help them? It's all about making it better."

The Cougars converted 86 percent of their third-down conversions (12-14), with nine of the 14 coming with five yards to go or less. The Huskies never stopped BYU on third down the entire second half.

"When that happens, that's not a good job on me," Donatell said. "I wanted us play better situationally. I don't have us looking that way right now. That bugs me. I like to think we could get an advantage there."

With Washington (0-2) staring right down the barrel of an Oklahoma team loaded with talent on all sides of the ball, the prospects of a win at home against a top-five opponent right now appear as remote as winning a million dollars on a penny slot.

"We put ourselves in a position to win a football game," Willingham said. "I thought we had a little more focus and that helped us to play a better football game. But we still didn't get the goal that we wanted - and that was to win the football game."


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