Washington quarterback Jake Locker made the big plays in a game the Huskies needed to win.
When they needed him, more than ever, and when he needed this game, maybe more than any other game in his life, Jake Locker delivered.
Under the intense pressure of overtime in a game Washington had to win, quarterback Locker was brilliant.
He made two touchdown throws to Jermaine Kearse that now belong to Huskies history. They were time-capsule throws in a time-capsule game.
The first, a 17-yard score that Kearse caught at the goal line, tied the game in the first overtime. The second, a remarkably soft 21-yard fade, was the difference in Saturday’s late-night 35-34 double-overtime win over Oregon State.
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Locker tied a school record, throwing a career-high five touchdown passes. He was 21 of 35 for 286 yards and ran the ball 12 times for 60 yards.
He reignited Washington’s bowl hopes. He saved a season.
Five summers ago, with the sun shining as bright as his future, Locker announced he was going to play football at the University of Washington.
Typically understated, there was no news conference, no television cameras, no hoopla. He simply told Washington officials he was coming to their school and made himself available for interviews.
It was a Sunday in July, a perfectly quiet time for Locker to make some noise. But he practically whispered the announcement and let Washington’s fans do the celebrating.
Locker’s arrival was the good news the struggling program needed. He was the kind of quarterback who could win games so many different ways. He was going to be part of the great reawakening of Washington football.
But Saturday night, he faced the pivotal night in his career, a game against Oregon State his team had to win; a game Locker needed to keep alive his hope of getting to a bowl game before he leaves Montlake for the NFL.
With the Huskies at 2-3, Locker had to make this night personal. He had to make plays with his legs as well as his arm.
Jake had to be Jake. The once-unstoppable wing-T quarterback from Ferndale had to put the pressure on the Beavers defense every way he could, in the pocket and out.
He had to run over linebackers, get outside the tackles, set up his arm with his legs. Because his young offensive line was short-handed and overmatched, he had to buy time with rollouts and throw lasers on the run.
So on this crisp, delicious Saturday, he played as if this were the most important night of his life. He played as if this program needed this win as much as it needs a remodeled stadium.
He rolled left and ran right. He rolled right and threw tight spirals to D’Andre Goodwin and Kearse.
For much of this game, against the very good Beavers, Jake was Jake.
He rolled left for 11 yards on a third-and-four on Washington’s first scoring drive. Then he ran for 6 more yards on the next play. Two plays later he rolled right and threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Kearse.
Careers pass so quickly in college sports. In football, eras are measured in mere weekends. Locker has played in 34 of them.
He has played against the odds. He has fought through injuries and coaching changes. He has been cursed by bad timing, coming to the school at a time when the program was reeling.
On that sunny summer day in 2005, he was viewed by many as the savior, the second coming of former Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo.
It was too much to put on him, too much to put on any quarterback.
Locker has played behind bad offensive lines. He has suffered with inexperienced defenses and fought through injuries, illness and bad breaks.
But he’s never made excuses. Never run from the expectations.
He has played for two head coaches, in two different systems, under two different offensive coordinators. With Locker at quarterback, the Huskies are 11-23.
He has flashed his brilliance, as he did two Saturdays ago, when he led Washington to a win over USC his coach Steve Sarkisian called “legendary.”
And he was legendary again against the Beavers.
Five summers ago, Locker quietly announced he was coming to Washington.
And nights like this were the reason his decision was celebrated.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com