Jake Locker will miss Huskies' game Saturday at Oregon
Washington quarterback Jake Locker will miss the Huskies' game Saturday at Oregon because of a rib injury. He hopes to return when UW plays UCLA on Nov. 18.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Of all the pains inflicted on Jake Locker this season, this might hurt the worst — being forced to watch from the sideline when the Washington Huskies play at No. 1-ranked Oregon Saturday.
After three weeks of trying to play through a rib injury, Locker will sit it out in Eugene, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian announced Monday.
Sarkisian said Locker's injury escalated from a hairline fracture into a cracked rib when he took a few more hard hits in Saturday's 41-0 loss to Stanford. The coach said Locker's ailment began as a cartilage injury against Oregon State, before becoming a hairline fracture and finally a crack on Saturday.
"(Locker) took a couple pretty good shots that kind of escalated this thing to a whole 'nother level for us," Sarkisian said. "It's unfortunate. I know Jake wants to be out there in the worst way, but this is the right thing to do."
That means redshirt freshman Keith Price will start against the Ducks at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium. True freshman Nick Montana will prepare as the backup, but the hope is that he does not have to play and can continue to preserve a season of eligibility as a redshirt. Sarkisian said receiver Cody Bruns and running back Jesse Callier — who each have some experience as high-school quarterbacks — will prepare as emergency quarterbacks.
For Locker, it's the latest disappointment in a season that began with visions of making a run at the Heisman Trophy, descended to UW falling to 3-5 and struggling to stay in bowl contention, and now to a stint on the sideline.
Locker, who decided not to enter the NFL draft after his junior year to instead return to UW, said he hopes that he will be able to return for the Nov. 18 game against UCLA, which would be his last at Husky Stadium — UW is off on Nov. 13.
"It's not how you would have wanted to draw it up," he said of his senior season. "But I said at the time of my decision, 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."
Sarkisian and Locker each said last Monday that Locker did not have a broken rib. A week later, the coach was still insisting it was not a broken rib, but just a hairline fracture. Sarkisian said an MRI at some point before the Stanford game confirmed that injury.
"But he was still cleared to play," Sarkisian said Monday. "And then with the hit this week, it took it to another level."
Asked why Locker was still cleared to play with a hairline fracture, Sarkisian said "The (medical) staff agreed that it was OK for him to play, and we made that decision, a decision that is really made routinely week to week to week — not just for a quarterback, but for every player on our team. (This week) the staff has made the recommendation to hold him out and get him healthy. The goal is to have him healthy for our final three ballgames."
Sarkisian said those decisions were made after consulting with Locker and his family.
Said Locker of sitting out this week: "They said it's the best thing for me and my health, and I've put my trust in those guys ever since I've been here. And I still do, and I don't argue with the decision they made at all, but you just wish you could always be out there."
Locker said he will instead spend the week as the No. 1 cheerleader for Price, a graduate of St. John Bosco High in Compton, Calif. The 6-1, 192-pounder has played in five games, completing 5 of 9 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown that came in the fourth quarter at USC.
"It's going to be hard, a great challenge," Sarkisian said. "But one of the unique qualities Keith has is he is a very positive young man. He's always bright-eyed and got a great smile on his face. He doesn't tend to get rattled by things. I think that type of an approach is one that you really need going into Autzen Stadium."
The last time UW played on the road against the No. 1 team in the country was 2004, when another quarterback making his first start — Isaiah Stanback — got the nod at USC. Washington lost that game 38-0, its first shutout in 23 years.
Few will be surprised if this game turns into a similar rout — the point spread leapt in Oregon's favor in the hours after the news of Locker's injury was announced, moving as high as 34 ½ points by 3 p.m.
Sarkisian, though, thinks his players will take the field believing they can win.
"It's a unique opportunity where we can't get stuck dwelling on what's occurred here the last couple weeks, and focus on the task at hand," he said. "We'll prepare mentally, we'll prepare physically for this challenge, and we'll embrace the opportunity."
• Sarkisian said senior Cody Habben will return to the starting lineup at right tackle in place of true freshman Erik Kohler, who started on that side along with freshman guard Colin Porter against Stanford. "Starting two true freshmen next to each other was hard," Sarkisian said.
• Other than being beaten at the line of scrimmage in the loss to Stanford, Sarkisian said he also thinks what hurt UW was pressing as a team.
"I think at times we get a little too tense and guys don't perform to the best of their abilities," he said. "And at other times we've got guys that are pressing and trying too hard, and instead of just doing their job they are trying to do everybody's job and inevitably you get beat that way."