Pac-10 Football Round-Up - Nov. 18
SEATTLE - Coach Steve Sarkisian removed Jake Locker from his final game at Husky Stadium with about a minute to go, and Washington comfortably ahead of UCLA.
The crowd roared one final roar for their phenom from Ferndale, the Huskies' indispensible senior captain and quarterback. And when this triumphant exited ended Thursday night, the first thing Locker did on the field was wrap classmate and personal protector Ryan Tolar in a huge hug of black uniforms.
What a way to go out.
Chris Polk set career highs with 138 yards on 26 carries, Jesse Callier added 107 more on the ground and the Huskies defense roared as loudly as the crowd with two huge interceptions in the fourth quarter of Washington's 24-7 victory over the Bruins in the first weekday game at UW since before World War II.
Junior Quinton Richardson intercepted a pass and returned it 28 yards for the game-breaking touchdown midway through the final period for Washington (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10), which ended a three-game losing streak. The Huskies kept alive their quest for the senior class' first bowl with their best defensive performance of the season, holding UCLA (4-6, 2-5)and its three quarterbacks to 163 total yards.
Locker completed 10 of 21 throws for 68 yards and an interception. He added a 3-yard touchdown run for the first score. Locker then enjoyed the first game with two 100-yard rushers for the Huskies since Nov. 17, 2007, when Louis Rankin and Brandon Johnson did it while beating California.
Fellow senior Mason Foster had another huge night at linebacker with 14 tackles for the Huskies, who need to win their final two games, at California (5-5, 3-4) and at Washington State (2-9, 1-7) to become eligible for their first bowl game since 2002.
The Huskies' defense, which has struggled most of the season, held UCLA to 69 yards on eight drives from after their only touchdown deep into the fourth quarter. Then Bruins fourth-string quarterback Darius Bell - playing because Thursday starter Richard Brehaut had been knocked woozy and first-stringer Kevin Prince had surgery weeks ago - underthrew a pass outside.
Richardson broke on that like a Dawg on raw meat. He intercepted the pass easily and sprinted 28 yards for the game-breaking touchdown with 6:22 left. The Huskies led 17-7, and the crowd of 62,347 went bonkers.
Then safety Nate Fellner raced from the middle of the field, jumped and tipped a pass by another Bruins quarterback, Clayton Tunney, to himself. Fellner acrobatically kept one foot inside the sideline for another interception, which Polk converted into a 2-yard touchdown run the clinched Washington's first win since Oct. 16, here over Oregon State.
The Huskies' offense took a while to get going, with Locker getting off to an 8-for-17 passing start. But then the Huskies found their groove with Polk.
He ran for 71 yards in the opening half on 10 runs, one of them a 33-yard burst of determination on which the rugged sophomore broke five would-be tackles.
Washington's 17 seniors were introduced before the game and jogged from the tunnel with carrying their helmets before greeting their families on the field. Sarkisian shook the hands and patted each one on the back.
The final senior introduced of course was Locker. He arrived on campus in 2006 as an all-state star from near the Canadian border, hailed as the savior of the program. His final entrance for a game at Husky Stadium came with an extended hug from Sarkisian. Locker raised his right index finger into the darkening sky as he ran on the field to one of the loudest roars of the night.
Locker's 37th career start and home finale didn't start so hot. His fourth pass was intercepted by UCLA's Aaron Hester at the Washington 31. But the Bruins' Kai Forbath missed a 44-yard field goal to keep that turnover from hurting UW.
UCLA went on a 13-play, 92-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. Johnathan Franklin finished it with a 31-yard run through the diving tackle try of linebacker Cort Dennison. But that was about it for the Bruins' offense against the charged up Huskies' D.
Dennison dropped 25 yards into coverage and intercepted a pass by Brehaut at the UW 39 in the second quarter. The Huskies offense turned that into their best drive of the half.
Locker found Devin Aguilar crossing the middle for 22 yards to get into UCLA territory and Polk's running moved the ball down near the goal-line. Locker then ran left, lowered his head, disregarded his recently broken rib and jumped over the goal line for a 3-yard touchdown around left end that left the the game at 7 into the third quarter.
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