Locker Won't Sit Out

I haven't been to practice yet this week but I refuse to believe that Jake Locker won't answer the bell come Saturday at the Rose Bowl. He is a tough kid and he will lead his team to this important victory. He will make himself well and then go out and play his heart out. He knows how important he is to this team and he will be there.

Locker's contusion - or thigh bruise or sprain, strain, or whatever it is - will have to wait a couple more weeks to get healthy. This just happens to be the most important game of the whole season and Washington needs to win on the road, needs to win another conference game, and needs to take a major step out of the bottom tier of the conference. This team needs Jake Locker to be there, and he won't say no.

To beat the UCLA Bruins, Washington needs to win the turnover battle by plus-3, break even in the kicking game, run the ball for over 200 yards and stop UCLA from running for over 100 yards. They could really use a score off a fumble or interception return or blocked kick or kick return. Anything will do, but creating turnovers and stopping them in the red-zone have to be the most important things for the defense. UCLA has a great kicker: Make him beat you by not giving up any touchdowns.

On video, the Bruins look talented athletically, and in the four games I broke down they have been better on defense than on offense. They have, however, been giving up close to 500 yards in each of their last four conference games.

The quarterback questions will play themselves out, but come Saturday I would think both teams will go with their best options. The Bruins will test Jake's mobility and have used a variety of zone blitzes and will most likely continue to do so. Kevin Prince is going to be the quarterback for UCLA and I have to think that UW Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt will dial up some pressure packages and mix his coverages. To this point in the season the Huskies have been mostly a zone team but have moved the two freshmen, Desmond Trufant and Adam Long, to their cornerback spots because they are quick enough to play man. Quinton Richardson at nickel gives them three cover guys at the same time and that would seem to a good personnel group to man blitz out of.

Some teams have used relentless pressure packages in passing situations against Prince and he has used quick throws and screens to counter it. That is very Norm Chow-ish and Prince has shown a tendency to flush early and is not afraid to run it.

I still view this as a stage for Jake Locker and it's been a few games since he lit up the board and was the dominant player on the field. He needs to forget the injury and go out and put on a show: Mix the throws, use all the targets, scramble to keep them off-guard, and just put the team in position to win it at the end.

Who knows how many more times Husky fans will get a chance to watch Locker. But more importantly, this is the game that can help them turn the corner and prove that Washington is going to be a contender in this conference. No excuses - just execution, sound blocking and tackling will get it done.

That, and Jake Locker having a knockout game. That's why he'll be there.


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