Nussmeier Sees Potential

Somebody please tell Doug Nussmeier the Washington Huskies won last week. In fact, they beat the No. 3 USC Trojans 16-13 this past Saturday at Husky Stadium, as fans poured out of the stands to celebrate the first home win over a top-3 team in 18 years.

But after Sunday afternoon, once the '24-hour rule' had expired, the UW Offensive Coordinator wiped the game from his short-term memory, intent on trying to fix the issues he saw with the Huskies' offense as they move forward in preparation for their first road test of the year - at Stanford this Saturday. It's a game that will produce the early front-runner for the Pac-10 conference championship.

"Our motto is we expect to win," Nussmeier said Tuesday. "And we expect to win every week. And if we play the way we played Saturday, we won't do that.

"I think we've got a long way to go as far as our execution goes. We had ID problems, we were going to the wrong people, we had route adjustment problems...you can look at every position on our football team on offense and go through the game and see some major, major flaws in what we were doing. There's still a lot of room for growth. For us to get complacent right now and think we're where we need would be foolish.

"Their execution against USC was worse than their first two games. We have got to get better offensively."

Whoa.

Pretty frank talk from a coach partly responsible for arguably the biggest home win in UW history, but then again - film review for the coaches did come on 'Tell the Truth Monday'. And the coaches weren't the only ones. The players also had to face the music, something that happens at the beginning of every game week. "Be honest with yourself when you evaluate the film," added Nussmeier. "Are you doing the things you need to do to be a consistent champion? That's what we want to get to."

Nussmeier said the game felt like a heavyweight championship fight. "We were trading blows, back and forth," he said. "We were hanging in there. But you've got players like Jake Locker that makes a play for you. Jermaine Kearse, James Johnson...those guys step up and make plays and the line gives them time. That's what it's about. It's about putting players in opportunities to make plays."

And with 4:01 left on the game clock and the score tied at 13, Locker had an opportunity for immortality. All he did was lead his team to a winning field goal with two third-down conversions and a pass that was quintessential Jake; he stepped back, surveyed the field, broke the pocket and found Jermaine Kearse hugging the sideline for a 19-yard gain to put the Huskies well within Erik Folk's kicking range.

The rest was history, and Nussmeier is taking no credit for it.

"You have to give Jake the credit," he said, matter-of-factly. "Jake's the one that comes in and spends the time and does the extra things that we ask him to do. And he's done a great job of doing what we've asked him to do. And the great thing about Jake is that he always wants to do more. He's always looking to better himself every day. He's never satisfied with where he's at. And when you have a player that is coachable like that, that's willing to challenge himself, to do different things, you will see him continue to grow."

There was another play, in the second quarter, that showed a much different side of Locker's 'growth'. After completing a wonderful 30-yard pass to Kearse, the Huskies found themselves with a first down at the USC 15-yard line. As Locker rolled to the right, he definitely looked back toward the left side of the field to see play develop. As he did that, the whole other half of the field opened up to reveal yards and yards of open, green field turf. The whole south side of Husky Stadium swelled with anticipation of their quarterback using his legs like he's done so many times before - because it was clear to them he had a touchdown dead to rights.

But instead, he curiously threw back across the run of play to tight end Chris Izbicki - who was double-covered in the northeast corner of the end zone. "That happened in a second," Nussmeier said of the play. "It's easy to see in the booth, but on the field it happens so fast. I was hoping he would take off and score. But we had gone through the progression that week and we had taught him the progression. We showed him a clip of the wheel route coming clean and probably honed in on it a little too much. So he hung and waited for the wheel and threw the wheel. It's part of coaching and part of playing. That's football.

"You never want to take away his ability to make plays. As much as everybody says he isn't a pocket passer, I disagree. He is a pocket passer. But he also has the ability that you have to defend. When he doesn't like what he sees, he going to escape the pocket and break you down with his feet. And that's scary for a defensive coordinator."

And that's what's keeping Stanford's Ron Lynn and Andy Buh up late this week. And more than anything, it's what they don't know about Locker's game that has their stomachs churning.

"You see something different that you didn't see the day before," Nussmeier said of Locker. "And his physical attributes allow him to do whatever his mind can take him to do. So it's just the learning process of where to put his feet, where to get his eyes in progressions and you see him all of a sudden getting to third and fourth receivers and doing things that people didn't think he could do.

"I don't think Jake has touched the surface of what he's capable of. He's got so much left to give. I really believe that his best football ahead of him."

Stanford has some nice film of Locker from 2007, when he helped the Huskies crush the Cardinal 27-9. The Huskies ran for 388 yards that day, the third highest rushing total by a Washington team since 1975. But what happened last week is history, let alone two years ago, so these Huskies are only looking forward.

"Their defense resembles their head coach (Jim Harbaugh)," Nussmeier said. "They are scrappy, tough, aggressive. They fly around, they play hard. They have great players. It's going to be a great challenge for us."

It certainly looked Tuesday like the coaches had the bit between their teeth. Instead of the normal music playing in the background, there was no additional noise - despite the fact that the Huskies are on the road Saturday for the first time this season. And there was really no need for it, as the coaches were making a decent racket on their own.

"I thought it was an everyday Tuesday practice," Nussmeier said. "It was a little warmer than usual, so you'll always get guys going a little slower. But the preparation will set you free. If you prepare hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the game just comes to you. You don't have to get up for the game because you're prepared."

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