A lost night for UW as Locker goes down
After it was over, Jake Locker told them he was sorry. "He felt like he let the team down," said Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell. That Locker was able...
Seattle Times staff reporter
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- After it was over, Jake Locker told them he was sorry.
"He felt like he let the team down," said Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell.
That Locker was able to speak to the team at all, however, was the only victory of the night for the Huskies as they suffered a bizarre 29-23 defeat against Oregon State.
Locker suffered what was diagnosed as a sprained neck in a helmet-to-helmet collision with OSU's Al Afalava in the second quarter.
He was taken to the hospital and returned to the field in the fourth quarter as UW staged a comeback that fell just short, leaving the Huskies assured of being out of a bowl game for the fifth consecutive year.
He spoke to the team after the game and then was taken back on a private plane, accompanied by a doctor to undergo further examination sin Seattle.
"He said he was proud to be a Husky and he loves them," said UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano.
UW coach Tyrone Willingham said it was too early to know whether Locker would be able to play again this season.
Willingham said he thought the hit should have been penalized for being helmet-to-helmet but that he didn't think the Beavers hurt Locker intentionally.
"I don't believe that," Willingham said. "It was one of those things that happens."
Afalava protested that the hit was not dirty.
"It was fair," he said. "Football, it's the hitting that makes it exciting. It wasn't a dirty hit. I just came through and wrapped up and he was hurt."
The Huskies trailed 13-0 when Locker was hurt on a scramble in the second quarter.
He lay motionless on the ground and was attended to UW trainers for about 15 minutes before being taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. Once there, he was said to have listened to the game on the radio. He was later released from the hospital and returned to the sideline wearing a neck brace.
Players said it was inspirational seeing him return.
"I think they wanted to win the game for him," Lappano said. "They rallied around him."
The game was strange throughout with the only constant being that OSU field-goal kicker Alexis Serna went 5 for 5, making him 18 for 18 in his career against UW.
OSU led 16-0 at halftime and with Locker out, seemed on the way to turning it into a rout.
But UW used two turnovers by OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao -- replacing starter Sean Canfield -- to cut the lead to 16-10 midway through the third quarter.
Another Serna field goal made it 19-10 at the end of the third quarter, and OSU appeared to have put the game away when a Louis Rankin fumble was returned to the 5-yard line and the Beavers scored on a 2-yard pass from Moevao to Andy Stewart on third down to make it 26-10.
But then Bonnell, who replaced Locker, got hot, first hitting Anthony Russo with a 41-yard TD pass, then connecting with Cody Ellis on an 86-yarder with 7:06 left to make it 29-23.
"We never stopped fighting," Willingham said. "And as a team, we didn't give up."
OSU again appeared to have put the game away as it took the kickoff and drove 68 yards to the UW 1. But Yvenson Bernard was ruled to have fumbled as he approached the goal line and UW's Roy Lewis returned it to the UW 38 to give the Huskies a last chance.
Bonnell drove UW to the OSU 29 where the drive stalled, Bonnell throwing incomplete to Russo on fourth-and-two.
Lappano said two UW receivers were open for potential touchdowns, but that Bonnell went for the first down.
"That was just a strange football game overall," Willingham said. "There was no other way to describe it."
It was UW's fourth consecutive loss to Oregon State, the first time it has happened in the 92-game history of the series.
It was also one of the most heated affairs with four players being ejected -- three from Oregon State -- with scuffles flaring after Locker was injured.
The Huskies fell to 3-7 (1-6 in the Pac-10) and are assured of finishing out of the bowl picture.
UW senior defensive tackle Jordan Reffett said that was a tough blow to take, calling it "a solemn, solemn" locker room afterward.
"That was something our guys were battling for and hanging on to that," Willingham said. "Because that was something we set as our goal last winter. That's gone now but we still have three big ballgames to play."
Bonnell played the rest of the way in Locker's absence and helped lead a third-quarter comeback that got the Huskies briefly back in the game aided by some sloppy play by the Beavers (6-4, 4-3).
UW, which trailed 16-0 at halftime, cut the lead to 16-10 midway through the third quarter.
But OSU took advantage of a fumble by Rankin that gave the Beavers the ball at the Husky 5-yard-line to momentarily blow the game open in the fourth quarter.
UW trailed 13-0 when Locker was injured.
It was the second consecutive year a Washington quarterback was injured against Oregon State. Last season, Isaiah Stanback suffered a foot injury that ended his Washington career.
Locker had rushed for 17 yards on six carries at the time of his injury giving him 810 for the season, 5 yards shy of the Pac-10 modern-day record for most rushing yards in a season for a quarterback.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Beavers got on the board with the first of Serna's five field goals.
His first came from 51 yards with 13:27 to go in the second quarter, and he hit another from 34 yards with 8:32 left to put OSU ahead 6-0.
Serna added a 43-yard-field goal with 1:18 remaining in the half to put the Oregon State ahead 16-0.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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