Editor’s note: I’m back from my week-long “furlough” from UW football (as many of you might know, I was in charge of the staffing of the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. Golf is my other beat.
A little reminiscing took place Monday as both coach Steve Sarkisian and Jake Locker held their first weekly regular-season press conference in the Founders Club at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Naturally, the question came up to Locker about the 2008 controversial game against Brigham Young – this weekend’s UW opponent in Provo, Utah.
Locker still remembers, especially since the controversy features what he did – or did not – do with the ball after he scored the game-tying touchdown with two seconds remaining at Husky Stadium.
After doing a somersault into the west end zone, the ball came out of the quarterback’s hands and went 20 feet into the air. Officials flagged Locker for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration, and the Huskies’ ensuring PAT kick – roughly a 35-yard field goal – was blocked. BYU won 28-27.
The moment still bothers Locker. His lip curled when he thought about it Monday, too. Then he talked about it:
“I felt bad because I put our team in a situation that was more difficult than it should have been,” Locker said. “I think, looking back on it, I told them after the game, ‘I’m sorry that we were put in that situation and we lost the game because of it, but I’m not sorry for what I did because I was enjoying the game, I was having fun.’ And I wasn’t trying to embarrass BYU at that point.”
Locker said, to a man, every teammate understood where he was coming from.
“I think that all the guys were really cool and understood where I was coming from,” Locker said. “It’s the same way I would have dealt with anybody else. They were all very supportive and it’s a situation that’s outside of your control, and I think, we as a football team understand each other enough that they knew that’s not my personality, that’s not who I am that I wouldn’t do that to try to put our team in jeopardy. So no, they were all pretty cool about it.”
It was, perhaps, the signature play of the Huskies’ 0-12 season. Tyrone Willingham was relieved of his duties after the season.
Asked if what he would do if he scored a touchdown Saturday against the Cougars, Locker grinned widely. “I’ll take the ball to the referee,” he said. “For sure.”
• Sarkisian discussed some of the depth-movement heading into the opener at BYU.
He said four players jumped out at him – right guard Gregory Christine, fullback Austin Sylvester, receiver D’Andre Goodwin and defensive end Everrette Thompson. All are listed as starters after great fall camps.
About the fast-tracking Thompson, who did not start practicing fully until the midway point of fall camp, getting the nod over De’Shon Matthews: “I think overall game, style of game. BYU’s a very physical team, and we’ve got to be able to hold up at the point of attack. Now, De’Shon Matthews is going to play a bunch. This two-deep, it’s important to recognize that. You’re going into Provo, Utah, it’s going to be warm Saturday.We’re obviously going to be dealing with some altitude. So you’re going to see a bunch of guys. Although guys are listed as starters, our two-deep, the entire two-deep, is going to play.”
About Nate Fellner being chosen as the free-safety starter over Will Shamburger, the star of spring camp: “Just the experience. Nate Fellner’s got a lot of experience. He’ll get the start, but Will Shamburger’s going to play quite a bit. It may come down to them alternating series; they’re going to play that much. They’re both going to play in nickel. So they’re going to get extensive playing time.”
About James Johnson (ankle issues) being listed as a No. 3 receiver: “James is listed as the third guy there, and part of that is because he just hasn’t practiced. And the other side of that is, D’Andre Goodwin’s had a great camp, Cody Bruns has had a great camp, Jordan Polk’s had a very good camp. So it’s a deep position for us at wide receiver.”
On how the carries between Jesse Callier and Johri Fogerson will be split up behind Chris Polk: “I’m throwing it out there, I could see them each getting, depending on how the game’s going, 10 to 20 snaps, roughly. I don’t know. It will all depend on what the guy who calls plays wants to call the next snap.”
On kick- and punt-return personnel: “I feel great about our returners. Devin Aguilar has had a tremendous camp. He is a tremendous catcher. BYU is a difficult team from a punt and kickoff-return standpoint because of the altitude and the ball carrying. They are very good. If there was a top five of concerns, that is one of them, just catching a ball that is traveling more than it usually is. And Chris Polk at kickoff return along with Kevin Smith, Jessie Callier, Desmond Trufant _ you could see a few of those guys (returning kicks) in this week’s game. So I feel good about it.”
And injuries? Linebacker Brandon Huppert (knee) and running back Deontae Cooper (knee) are out. Defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee) is doubtful.
• A repeat statement from a couple weeks back – Sarkisian attaches very little sentimental value to the university he once starred at in the mid-1990s.
The Provo-area reporters asked the second-year UW coach about his feelings on the return to the area.
“It’s a business trip, for sure,” Sarkisian said. “I’ll take a few moments Friday at the walk-through to kind of reminisce. I had some great moments there, some great wins there. But ultimately, my concern is about these 105 kids that we have in this program and the 76 of them traveling with us to Provo. This is their weekend, this is their day, and so that will be my focus.”
** Monday practice update: Not much happening. Defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee) did not practice. Receiver James Johnson (ankle) was a participant, and looking about 80 to 90 percent healthy. … The team mainly worked on quickening the tempo, and got in a lot of plays in a short amount of time. … Quarterback Jake Locker was 3-of-6 for 95 yards, including an 80-yard dump pass to Chris Polk for a touchdown during team drills. He was sacked once. … Keith Price, one of the backups, got four snaps in the team session, to Nick Montana’s one. Read into that what you want. … Former UW coach Jim Lambright came by the last part of the 75-minute practice.