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Originally published Saturday, September 4, 2010 at 8:21 PM

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Steve Kelley

Jake Locker's magic missing amid Huskies mistakes

On a night quarterback Jake Locker had to live up to the hype, he couldn't make up for Washington's mistakes in a loss to Brigham Young.

Seattle Times staff columnist

PROVO, Utah — Before the final fourth-down play, before Jake Locker rejoined his teammates in the huddle, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian grabbed him by the arm and offered one final piece of advice.

These were the downs and this was the quarter that has haunted Locker and the Huskies for the past four seasons. This was another chance, the last chance of the night, to get it right.

Fourth-and-six from the Brigham Young 27-yard line. Devin Aguilar and D'Andre Goodwin was flanked to the left, Jermaine Kearse to the right.

It was winning time. Locker time.

But with the 19th straight sellout crowd, 63,000 hungry fans standing and his pocket collapsing around him, Locker's pass was deflected by Eathyn Manumeleuna. It popped in the air, before falling in the turf.

BYU rushed three and dropped eight and prayed that Locker didn't tuck and run.

This was another opportunity squandered. Another road loss for Washington, this time 23-17, to BYU.

These are the plays the Huskies still haven't learned to convert in the fourth quarter, away from Montlake. These are the moments they haven't found a way to make their own.

This was their 13th straight road loss. And it was tortuously similar to many of the others.

This season is supposed to be different. This is the season Washington learns to win; when Washington goes to a bowl; when the Huskies return to something close to their long, lost glories.

This season the fourth quarter is expected to belong to Locker. This is when he'll break a gaggle of tackles and will himself to first downs. Or he'll roll out and thread a seeing-eye pass to Kearse or Aguilar.

Locker makes plays as well as anybody in college football. We've grown accustomed to his pace.

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But in the gathering dusk at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in as important a season opener as Washington has had in a long time, he couldn't make plays.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-two, at the BYU 23, Locker rolled right. His options were to run or pass to Chris Polk. But Locker was stuck in a BYU Bermuda Triangle. He had nowhere to go.

Polk was covered and Locker, who still struggles with some reads in the spread option, didn't feel he could gain the yardage on the ground.

He tried to force a pass to Kearse in the end zone, but his pass was knocked down.

Later in the quarter, on a third-and-nine at the BYU 46, he overthrew Aguilar and the Huskies were forced to punt.

By his lofty standards, by Heisman standards, Jake Locker was ordinary on opening night. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 266 yards and ran 11 times for 29 yards.

He overthrew an open Kearse on one long pass. And he underthrew an open Aguilar on another pass.

When he ran the draw, he couldn't break tackles and he couldn't break runs.

In a season when Washington needs Locker to be outstanding, against BYU he merely was adequate.

In a game when the Huskies special teams — with the exception of field goal kicker Erik Folk — were hideous, Locker had to be Heisman great.

On a hot, late-summer evening, when Washington needed to control the ball to keep its defense fresh, Locker couldn't make enough third downs to keep BYU's offense off the field.

It wasn't the skyrocket 2010 season everyone in purple expected.

Of course, it didn't help that the special teams were so bad that it seemed as if Washington always was starting its drives from about Salt Lake City.

On consecutive possessions, Washington started from its 1, 20, 6, 16, 14 and 20. Peyton Manning would have had trouble beating those odds.

And it wasn't Locker who snapped the ball over punter Will Mahan's head leading to a first-quarter safety. Brendan Lopez did.

Locker didn't mishandle the kickoff after BYU cut the Husky lead to 17-16. Polk did.

Locker didn't misread the Cougars' offense, leading to JJ DiLuigi's 48-yard, go-head touchdown. The Huskies linebackers did.

But when all of the mistakes were happening around him and Locker had to be spectacular, he couldn't make enough magic to make the difference.

And on opening night, at least, 2010 looked too much like 2009.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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