Seattle - So many questions surround the enigmatic Washington Huskies and their up-and-down season.
Coach Steve Sarkisian is trying to figure out why his team can’t win back-to-back games. Quarterback Jake Locker doesn’t have an answer why they also haven’t lost back-to-back games.
Maybe there is no exact answer, hence the consistent inconsistency and a 3-4 record.
On Monday, two days after suffering a 44-14 loss to the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, Sarkisian and Locker met with the media and continued their search for answers to familiar questions.
The easiest answer for both was about the health of Locker and whether he will play on Saturday against 13th-ranked Stanford.
“He’ll play Saturday,” Sarkisian said.
Locker barely let the question end before answering it,
“I’ll be able to play,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Locker is 100 percent healthy.
“He’s got general soreness,” Sarkisian said. “He’s still got the thigh bruise, which obviously limits some of the running, the explosiveness. He’s got some sore ribs that have caused him some issues.”
There were rumors swirling that Locker played with a broken rib against Arizona.
Sarkisian said that wasn’t true.
Still, badly bruised ribs feel only somewhat better than broken ribs.
Yet Locker refused to use it as an excuse for his performance against Arizona. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
“I threw the one ball to Cody (Bruns) and that felt good, I could have probably thrown it farther if I needed to,” he said. “Throwing doesn’t feel too bad at all. I really didn’t feel it all on Saturday.”
But what was glaring was the absence of called runs for Locker. His hurt thigh prevents his normal acceleration. And no amount of protection can stop him from taking hits to the ribcage. Sarkisian adjusted his play calling because of it.
“Ultimately as much as I want (the players) to perform and to play well, I want them to be healthy,” Sarkisian said. “I want to make sure I don’t expose them to things that could further injure them. I wasn’t going to do that with Jake. I wasn’t going to put him out there and run him in between the tackles and take hits. That’s not the reason we lost the game.”
Sarkisian said that a less than healthy Locker who can’t be used on runs is still the Huskies’ best chance to win. Asked if he would bench Locker at any point, Sarkisian said, “No.”
So what would it take for him to pull Locker?
“If I don’t think Jake gives us the best chance to win,” Sarkisian said.
As a quarterback, Sarkisian had to deal with similar issues, particularly sore ribs.
“It hurts a lot during the week,” he said. “But generally what happens when the game rolls around (is) your adrenaline kicks in and you go play. And you wake up Sunday morning. You kind of roll over and take a deep breath, and (say), ‘OK, gotta another week to get right.’ I think that’s the mentality Jake’s taken on and will continue to take on. He’s a real warrior and a great competitor.”
Locker practiced Monday.
“I like to be able to practice and run around,” he said. “I always feel better if I can go and do a little bit to loosen up. I like to get out and practice.”
Locker participated in all the individual work, including several deep throws. He did sit out some of the reps in the team periods but it was more than he did last Monday or Tuesday.
Locker wouldn’t complain about his injuries.
“It’s football,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Everybody deals with it at some point in their career. It’s something that you kind of have to deal with, I guess. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Do your treatment and get as well as you can for Saturday.”
Defensive linemen Cameron Elisara (stinger) and Talia Crichton (knee) along with safety Will Shamburger (undisclosed injury) and running back Johri Fogerson (hip) did not practice. Elisara likely will be out against Stanford. Sarkisian said linebacker Victor Aiyewa, who played sparingly against Arizona because of a knee sprain, should play Saturday. The Huskies worked with yet another offensive line combination. Freshman Erik Kohler, who started against Nebraska before he was sidelined with mononucleosis, was at right tackle. Fellow freshman Colin Porter was at right guard. Drew Schaeffer was back at center. And senior Greg Christine was moved to the second team offensive line.