Seniors Get Their Time in the Sun - For Now

SEATTLE - For all the work he's done on the field, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim rarely looks for the spotlight off of it. Tonight, however, was different. When he sacked Cal's Kevin Riley for an eight-yard loss with 2:47 left in the third quarter of UW's 42-10 thumping of the Golden Bears, he was more than happy to throw up a couple of shakas when the cameras started canvassing the Huskies' sideline.

"If anybody on this football team, if anybody in this conference deserves a record, it's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim," Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said of the senior defensive end. His three sacks on the night gave him 30 in his career, two more than Ron Holmes, who did his damage from 1981 to 1984. "There's not a guy that practices harder than him, there's not a guy more dedicated to a program than Daniel. He's going to have a fine pro career ahead of him, because he's going to earn his way."

With six prospective student-athletes watching the game, it was Sark's first recruits that took center stage Saturday night. Those would be the players that made up the graduating class of 2009. They were the ones that set the table for the Huskies making a five-game improvement from a year ago.

"This was not an easy season by any means," Sarkisian said. "There was a lot of adversity that came out way, a lot of excruciating losses that these kids had to deal with. They could have easily folded the tent in. They could have easily reverted back to maybe what they were before. And they just battled every day.

"We've been challenging these guys for 365 days now."

And Sarkisian wanted to challenge the Golden Bears right out of the gate. He wanted to run a reverse pass with Cody Bruns throwing a pass to Jermaine Kearse, but just wasn't comfortable with his team's field position. So he waited until the second play.

"I thought we just had to go," Sarkisian said of the play. "We've been aggressive in everything we've done, so I didn't want to waver."

The Huskies scored on the very next play, a 40-yard strike from Locker to Kearse, and they never looked back. They took a 21-3 halftime lead after two Locker touchdown runs and extended their lead to 25 after their first drive of the second half resulted in a 21-yard pass from Locker to Devin Aguilar.

While it's easy to look ahead and think about what could be if the Huskies are able to convince Jake Locker to put his professional dreams on hold for a year ("I think we could be electric," said Sarkisian), it's just as important to take a moment and reflect on the players who, if the Huskies reach a bowl next season, were responsible for laying the foundation.

"Last time Cal came up here we beat them up," said one of those seniors, fullback Paul Homer. "I reminded people of that this year."

"We just knew that guys were going to be leaving our team after today, and everyone wants to leave on top," added linebacker Mason Foster. "We wanted to show everyone what we could do, and the seniors wanted to end their career on top so everyone was practicing as hard as they could."

Sarkisian was concerned his team might suffer from a bit of Apple Cup fatigue, especially since the natural tendency is to let up after you play your rival, but these Huskies were having none of that.

"The challenge was to hopefully send a message of where we're headed," Sarkisian said. "I think we responded amazingly." UW gave their seniors arguably their most complete game of the season, one in where they dominated on both offense and defense, and definitely held their own on special teams.

"Washington had a great game plan," Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford said.

So now that the seniors can leave UW riding the high of the first Husky winning streak since the beginning of the 2007 season, Sarkisian turns his attention to bringing in the next class that will help him to bring Washington football back to the fore. "I've got to get some of these kids that are on our campus here that want to be Huskies," he said. "We're rolling. Part of our message is we're supposed to get better as a football program, and the last two weeks help us with that. This win tonight gives us some validity that we're on the rise. And obviously in recruiting that plays a big part."

And Locker, who was inundated with chants of 'One More Year!' and a Captain Husky-led cheer of 'Don't Go Jake' after the first touchdown throw to Aguilar, has an important decision to make. Will he return for his senior year, or will he forego the rest of his college eligibility and turn pro?

Sarkisian said they will meet Monday and start to talk about Locker's options, as well as all the information at hand. "There's no rush," he said. "We've got plenty of time. We're going to do this thing the right way so that he feels great about what he decides to do."

"There's going to be a lot of things that go into this decision and obviously the direction this football team's headed in and the possibilities for this team is going to be something that definitely weighs in," Locker said Saturday night.

And while they take their time, Husky nation will be nervously waiting Locker's decision and Sarkisian will be pitching like a big top circus barker. I have a feeling it's probably going to go something like this:

"No doubt this (year) was a success. We played hard, that was the first goal. We weren't perfect, but I've said before that it's not going to take us very long and I truly believe that. We're as good as anybody in our conference. I don't know if we could have said that a year ago, but we can say that today. It's not taking very long."

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