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Originally published August 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 31, 2007 at 10:14 PM

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Locker excels as Huskies rout Syracuse in season opener, 42-12

Incredibly, the expectations for Jake Locker, and the immediate impact he could have on the Washington Huskies, might have been too low.

Seattle Times staff reporter

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Incredibly, the expectations for Jake Locker, and the immediate impact he could have on the Washington Huskies, might have been too low.

In what has to rank as one of the most impressive first games for a UW quarterback, if not recent college football, Locker led the Huskies to a 42-12 win Friday night over the host Orange in front of 40,329 at the Carrier Dome.

Once Locker overcame some early jitters, he showed just why there had been so much excitement over a debut some were calling the most-anticipated in school history.

The redshirt freshman from Ferndale rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and completed 14 of 19 passes for 142 yards after misfiring on his first three attempts in expertly conducting an offense redesigned to take advantage of his talents.

And while it was a debut for Locker, it might have been a rebirth for the Huskies, who finally seem to have legitimate reason for long-term hope after three straight losing seasons.

The one caveat is that Syracuse might simply be bad -- the Orange is picked to finish last in the Big East and looked the part with a sloppy performance.

Still, the Huskies dominated in a fashion that few could have foreseen, with Locker hardly alone in doing the damage.

Senior running back Louis Rankin had one of his best games as a Husky, rushing for 147 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns (13, 47 and 20 yards). The defensive line dominated, recording five sacks through the first three quarters. The young secondary didn't allow a gain of more than 16 yards in the first half. And punter Jared Ballman and kicker Ryan Perkins were flawless in their debuts.

It gave the Huskies just their second win in an opening game since 2001, and their first on the road since 1998.

It started somewhat inauspiciously, however, as the Huskies went three-and-out the first two times they had the ball.

Locker, appearing a bit anxious in his first game since leading Ferndale to the 2005 Class AAA title at the Tacoma Dome, missed on his first three passes, one underthrown and two overthrown.

Syracuse, meanwhile, scored on its first drive, getting a 42-yard field goal from Patrick Shadle.

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But penalties and sloppy play hurt the Orange, which couldn't take advantage of good field position for most of the first quarter in pretty much blowing its only real chance to make it a game.

Locker, meanwhile, finally got untracked when he hit Corey Williams for a 7-yard completion on the first play of UW's third series, then seemed to settle into the game.

Three plays later, Rankin took a pitch and escaped a tackle after appearing ready to be dumped for a significant loss, reserving his field and gaining 17 yards to get into Syracuse territory for the first time.

That play seemed to turn the tide for good as the Huskies moved swiftly from there into the end zone. Rankin capped the 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 13-yard run up the middle, finishing with 47 yards on five carries in the drive.

After a Syracuse drive into UW territory ended without a score, the Huskies took over at their 20-yard line, then drove 80 yards in 13 plays, with Locker doing most of the damage.

He began the drive with a simple run over the right side out of the shotgun formation, going for 25 yards. He ended the drive with a 1-yard leap into the end zone to put the Huskies up 14-3 to cap an 80-yard, 13-play drive, the kind of time-consuming march that has mostly been absent since the graduation of Marques Tuiasosopo, the player to whom Locker is often compared.

Washington dominated the stats at halftime, with 177 total yards to 111 for Syracuse. Most telling, UW had 130 rushing yards on 19 carries while Syracuse was held to minus-2 on 13 attempts.

Locker had 67 yards on eight carries in the first half while Rankin rushed for 57 on nine.

The Huskies then took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 70 yards in four plays, the final 47 coming on a quick jaunt down the sideline from Rankin, whose score put the Huskies ahead 21-6.

After a three-and-out from Syracuse, the Huskies then embarked on another 70-yard drive, Locker capping it with an 8-yard run. The key play of the drive was a 31-yard run on a reverse by receiver D'Andre Goodwin.

The Huskies then scored again on their next drive, going 80 yards in 11 plays with Rankin scoring from 20 yards out, marking five straight TD drives for UW, excepting the end of the first half.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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