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Originally published Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Notebook | Coach Ty Willingham is critical of call against Jake Locker

Reaction locally and nationally continued to pour in Monday about the controversial penalty called on Washington quarterback Jake Locker...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reaction locally and nationally continued to pour in Monday about the controversial penalty called on Washington quarterback Jake Locker in Saturday's 28-27 loss to Brigham Young, almost unanimously sympathetic with the Huskies.

And given a couple of days to think about it, UW coach Tyrone Willingham weighed in with a little harsher critique.

The Huskies were penalized 15 yards when Locker threw the ball in the air after scoring with two seconds left. After the game Saturday, Willingham said, "It's one that they have to call when they see it."

Monday, Willingham said he thought the Pac-10 officiating crew should have used greater discretion.

"I think we all know that it was not the right call," Willingham said, before then comparing it to the cliché that holding could be called on every play. "There are rules written for them to use discretion, and in this case we didn't do that. Proper judgment was not used. That was not an act of a young man taunting, not an unsportsmanlike act at all, and therefore it should have been viewed in its totality and not just isolated as to the letter of the law."

Willingham said maybe the rule needs to be rewritten to add more leeway for officials to use their judgment.

Willingham said he talked with the Pac-10 about the call but would not reveal what was said. After being moved back 15 yards, UW had its extra-point attempt blocked, allowing the Cougars to escape with the win.

"Obviously it's a tough play because it does, in fact, change the outcome of the game," Willingham said. "You go from kicking a simple three-yard PAT to now kicking a 30-some yard field goal, so that does change things."

Locker said he appreciated all the support he had been getting and reiterated that the ball toss was unintentional.

"To be totally honest with you, I didn't even realize I had done it at the time until I got to the sideline and heard the official say there was an unsportsmanlike penalty," Locker said.

In Provo, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall defended the call and said his team's victory shouldn't be perceived as being a gift from the officials.

"To say that ... the referee's call decided it — when he called it correctly — again, it's unfortunate," Mendenhall said, according to The Associated Press.

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Said BYU linebacker David Nixon: "What it really came down to is the blocked extra point. At the end of the day, I think it just came down to our will against their will, and it was pretty apparent whose will won."

Injury update

The Huskies will likely be without two starters Saturday against Oklahoma: strong safety Darin Harris and running back Chris Polk. Harris is out until at least the Stanford game on Sept. 27, Willingham said, after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter. He was taken off the field by ambulance and spent the night in Harborview Medical Center, where tests revealed no neck or spinal injuries.

With Harris out, Tripper Johnson, a 26-year-old walk-on who spent eight years playing minor-league baseball, is scheduled to get his first start.

Polk suffered a dislocated shoulder in the second quarter and Willingham said on his radio show Monday night that it could be a season-ending injury. True freshman David Freeman is listed as the starter at tailback.

Notes

• Locker said he felt "back to normal" on Saturday after being bothered by his hamstring in the opening loss at Oregon. And he said he made it through the BYU game with no problems, so he should be 100 percent for Oklahoma.

• Also weighing in on the Locker penalty was former UW coach Rick Neuheisel, now at UCLA, who said he sympathized with the Huskies but also found merit in what the officials did.

"It's the rule," Neuheisel said, according to The Associated Press. "If you're going back to intent, then it's a judgment call. Therein lies the conflict. But I certainly don't fault the official if, as they said, it's not a judgment call. The ball goes high in the air, it is what it is."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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