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Originally published Friday, December 31, 2010 at 12:04 AM

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Jake Locker's final game at UW hits all the familiar notes

Jake Locker bypassed an early entry to the NFL and turned down a multimillion-dollar contract for this season and this game — a 19-7 victory that mirrored his topsy-turvy tenure at Washington.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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SAN DIEGO — If you didn't know anything about Jake Locker and his storied career at Washington, then all you need is a video of his final game with the Huskies.

There it was: the good, the bad and all of his misfortunes on display against Nebraska, a Holiday Bowl opponent that brutalized UW three months ago in Seattle.

Locker returned for his senior year, bypassed early entry to the NFL and turned down a multimillion-dollar contract for this season, this game and Thursday's 19-7 victory that mirrored his topsy-turvy tenure at Washington.

He misfired on his first seven attempts in the Holiday Bowl and failed to complete a pass in the first half. Sometimes his receivers dropped passes and sometimes his passes were off target.

He was momentarily knocked out of the game early in the second quarter and staggered to the sideline. He appeared dazed and confused, but returned on the next possession.

Locker's finest moment in the first half was a trick play in which he lined up at receiver and caught a 16-yard pass that set up Chris Polk's 3-yard touchdown run.

Locker saved his best for the opening drive in the second half. He engineered an artful, four-play 53-yard march highlighted by his 26-yard pass — his first completion to senior D'Andre Goodwin — deep in Nebraska territory.

On the next play, Locker darted through the line, juking and jitterbugging before plowing through two Cornhusker defenders en route to a 25-yard score.

It wasn't Locker's best game, but it was a marvelous farewell in front of 57,921 at Qualcomm Stadium and a nationally televised ESPN audience.

"So much was made on why he came back, winning the Heisman (Trophy) or whatever," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "The reality is he came back for this moment."

The first time he played Nebraska, Locker finished with 71 yards on 4-for-20 passing.

This time, Locker ran for more yards (83) than he had passing (56). He also didn't throw any interceptions — in the previous game he had two.

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After the game, Locker said he was happy to play a supporting role, knowing he accomplished his No. 1 goal and led UW to a 7-6 record — its first winning season since 2002.

"There were some frustrating moments, but this is the best way I could go out," he said. "Couldn't ask for anything better."

With the Washington band providing a lively soundtrack and UW fans streaming out of the stands, the Huskies lingered on the field for several minutes Thursday. No one wanted to leave.

Locker hugged everybody — coaches, teammates, family, friends and purple-clad fans. He kissed his fiancée Lauren Greer and posed for a family picture.

"Awesome," said his dad Scott, whose eyes were reddened.

And finally, Locker ran off the field holding his gold helmet in the cool San Diego air as the crowd chanted his name one last time, yelling "Locker, Locker, Locker."

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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