SEATTLE - The announcement came without hesitation or a hint of secrecy.
Watching his quarterback Jake Locker take hit after hit the past three weeks, and wince each time, University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian declared the senior out at least a week – maybe longer – because of a broken rib.
“In this case, the (medical) staff has made the recommendation to hold him out to get him healthy, and we’re going along with the recommendation,” Sarkisian said. “The goal is to have him back healthy for our final three ballgames as we go toward the home stretch there toward UCLA, Cal and Washington State.”
Redshirt freshman Keith Price will take the reins of the offense and make his first career start at top-ranked Oregon on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
True freshman Nick Montana will be elevated to the No. 2 spot. Sarkisian said he’s hoping to keep Montana’s redshirt-year status intact, and hopes not to have to play him. Receiver Cody Bruns and running back Jesse Callier will be the emergency-situation quarterbacks.
Ever since Locker felt a painful tugging on his right side after taking a defender’s pop in UW’s 35-34 double overtime win over Oregon State on Oct. 16, the sensation has lingered.
Initially it was diagnosed through an X-ray as torn rib cartilage, but Locker was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff, Sarkisian said.
The coach admitted not letting on to specifics of the original injury for fear that opposing defenses might take shots at Locker’s ribs.
A week later, the Huskies lost at Arizona, 44-14. Soon after that, Locker went in for a magnetic resonance imaging exam (MRI), and more damage had been detected: He had a hairline fracture in one rib.
Yet Locker continued to practice last week – looking spry and moving around better than he had in weeks heading into the Stanford game Saturday.
Nobody is certain what hit it was that further fractured the rib, but Locker took a huge one by the Cardinal defense. He played into the fourth quarter Saturday.
On Sunday, the UW medical staff evaluated a new X-ray, and relayed the news to Sarkisian.
“He was pretty shook up about it,” Sarkisian said of Locker.
“I asked if there was any possible way I that I could (play),” Locker said. “They said there’s just too much risk involved in it now.
“I think they want me to rest, try to get the bone to heal as quick as we can.”
Locker has passed for 7,052 yards in his career, No. 2 all-time at UW. He’s rushed for 1,807 yards. The loss Saturday was his 20th consecutive start at quarterback.
Price has completed 5 of the 9 passes he’s thrown – all this season. He threw a 1-yard touchdown pass in the come-from-behind victory over USC in Los Angeles. And with Locker limited in practice much of the past month, Price has taken snaps with the first unit.
“(Price) has been running a lot of these plays in practice,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously, we are not going to go into this ballgame on the road with our entire playbook. It will be a game plan that suits his talents with something we feel like we can attack Oregon’s schemes with and ultimately give us the best opportunity for success.”
Locker said he’ll be the team’s “No. 1 cheerleader” for the time being, which includes next week’s bye. Sarkisian said he expects the Ferndale standout to be back in time for his final home start Nov. 18 against UCLA, but did concede the possibility of Locker missing more games.
“(My senior year) is not how you would have wanted to draw it up,” Locker said. “But I said at the time of my decision (to bypass the NFL Draft), and I’ll stick to it now: I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t do it any different. We still have a lot to play for in this season.
“I still have the opportunity to come back and to be in our final three games, hopefully.”
Price took all the first-team snaps Monday as practice was held indoors. He was 6-for-9 passing for 68 yards against the No. 1 defense, but was picked off by linebacker Mason Foster. ... Cornerback Desmond Trufant, out of Wilson High, suited up, did some scout-team work but none during the team session. ... Tight end Chris Izbicki (sprained foot) did not practice. ... Senior Cody Habben has been reinstalled as the starter at right tackle for this week’s game. Sarkisian said true freshman Erik Kohler should see action, too. ... Who gets to try and simulate the quarterback of the fastest offense in college football? Luther Leonard, who was a quarterback at Evergreen High in Seattle, will play the role of Oregon’s Darron Thomas this week for the UW scout-team offense.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org