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Originally published November 12, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 12, 2007 at 1:57 PM

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Huskies won't rush return of QB Locker

Flat on his back in Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Ore., the only thing Huskies quarterback Jake Locker wanted to know was whether...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Flat on his back in Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Ore., the only thing Huskies quarterback Jake Locker wanted to know was whether he could play in Washington's game this Saturday against California.

"We weren't there one minute and it was out of his mouth — 'I'll be ready to play next week, right Dad?,' " Locker's father, Scott, said Sunday.

Whether he can is still in doubt, though Locker escaped suffering any significant injury when he was hit in a frightening helmet-to-helmet collision with Oregon State safety Al Afalava with 6:18 to go in the second quarter of an eventual 29-23 loss to the Beavers.

A UW statement released Sunday night said Locker suffered a stinger and a strain of the trapezius muscle; it listed no timetable for his return.

In the statement, UW coach Tyrone Willingham was quoted, "We will not rush Jake's return to the field. The extent to which Jake will be out of action will be in large part determined by his ability to recover from the injury."

Scott Locker said the big concern in the moments after Jake Locker was injured was that he complained about "a little loss of feeling" in his arms.

"A little stinger, it sounded like to me," Scott Locker said, adding that all tests for skeletal damage came back negative.

Jake Locker was put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital but released after a short stay and returned to the field in time to see the end of the game.

Scott Locker said his son was "in good spirits" on Sunday and focused mostly on wanting to play this week.

"He expects to," Scott Locker said. "If he's fully healthy, there's no way I don't see him not playing."

If Locker can't play, the Huskies will go with fifth-year senior Carl Bonnell, who went the rest of the way Saturday and helped get UW close with two long touchdown passes in the fourth quarter before the Beavers held on.

Willingham said after the game that he thought a penalty should have been called on the play for helmet-to-helmet contact.

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"It is very clear if you see the hit that it was helmet-to-helmet contact," Willingham said. "There is not any question about that. The difficult part is that the officials, from the angles they had, they could not see that and that's very difficult. Those are the things you put the rules in place to eliminate."

The Pac-10 is expected to review the play and possibly announce a finding today.

Afalava said after the game he didn't think his hit was illegal and that he wasn't trying to hurt Locker, saying he prayed for him during the 15 minutes Locker was being attended to on the turf.

Oregon State coach Mike Riley defended the play on Sunday.

"They didn't call a penalty, I know that," Riley said. "I think that when you look at that play, I'm really glad Jake is OK, but he lowered his head and shoulders into the sidelines and I don't know, I'm trying to figure out how Al was going to tackle the guy if he didn't go down to meet him. It wasn't called, nobody on their sideline reacted until after Jake was down, and I didn't see anything wrong with the hit."

Scott Locker said his son would never complain about the play, "but I will."

He said, "Those kinds of shots have been taken at him all year. I think if you go head-to-head that should be a penalty. They talk about protecting quarterbacks, but this time I didn't see that. I wouldn't say it was a blatantly illegal hit. At least it wasn't out of bounds this time. But I think maybe the league needs to take a look at that. I think they are letting it go a little bit too much."

Scott Locker said the incident was disconcerting for his family but that it won't affect the way Jake plays the game.

"He's chosen this path, and he's got a belief that this is kind of his calling, to be a player, and I trust in that and I trust in him and I trust the coaching staff to put him in the right positions that maybe these kinds of things can be eliminated," Scott Locker said. "But when you play the way he plays, that's what people love about him. If he didn't play as aggressively as he does, then he wouldn't be the player that he is. You worry about it, but I can't say that it will be a concern of mine when he gets on the field. If things like that are meant to happen, there is not much we can do about it."

NOTES

With the loss, the Huskies fell to 3-7 and are eliminated from a winning season or a bowl game. It will be UW's fourth consecutive losing season, which has never happened at Washington, and the third straight under Willingham, also a first for a Husky coach.

• Riley said he had no idea why the fumble by Yvenson Bernard late in the game was not reviewed by replay.

"I think that that was a mistake," he said. "If it doesn't come out in our favor at the end, that's one thing. But any game I've ever seen, the reason for the rule is to review that play. It's a game-changing, season-changing play, and it should have [been reviewed], no question about it."

• The game grew heated after the Locker injury. Four players were ejected, including three from Oregon State. Riley said there was a chance any or all could be suspended by the conference for this week's game against Washington State and that he would find out today.

• Willingham said WR Anthony Russo was hurt on UW's final offensive play. The nature and severity of the injury were unclear.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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