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Originally published Sunday, September 6, 2009 at 8:35 PM

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Sarkisian pleased with Locker's first game in new system

Coach says: "I saw a really good understanding of an offense that is going to allow him only to continue to grow."

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Idaho @ UW, 12:30 p.m.

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The grade in passing for Jake Locker Saturday night? How about a passing grade?

UW coach Steve Sarkisian certainly thought so after watching Locker guide the team's new-look offense for the first time in real competition.

"I saw accuracy in throws I don't think he had before," Sarkisian said after Locker went 25 for 45 for 321 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in UW's 31-23 loss to LSU. "I saw a really good understanding of an offense that is going to allow him only to continue to grow. And I'm very proud of him because the first game in this offense against that defense, I thought he performed very well."

While the final numbers were a little skewed by the final drive, when Locker went 7 for 10 in the last 1:48, the attempts and completions were each career highs for Locker. They were the most attempts and completions since Cody Pickett in 2003.

Locker's previous high for attempts was 36 against UCLA in 2007. His previous best in completions was 17 — three times, including against Arizona in 2007 when he threw for a career-high 336 yards.

And afterward, Locker again said he's just fine with the change in the offense from last year's, which featured more zone read running plays, to this year's, which features more spread passing and pro-style looks.

"I'll do whatever is needed to win the game," he said. "I thought we were able to move the ball pretty well and we did a good job on third downs throwing the ball so hopefully that is something we can continue to do."

Locker completed 55.1 percent of his passes, a little off the 60 percent goal Sarkisian set back in the spring. But Locker also had a couple dropped, and a couple that he threw away to escape a rush or get out of a bad play.

"He threw some nice balls," Sarkisian said. "He moved well in the pocket. He kept his eyes up. And that's a good defense, now. That team is going to be competing for an SEC championship, possibly a national championship, and they've got really good players. I'm proud of Jake's performance."

The biggest negative was an interception Locker threw in the first quarter when LSU middle linebacker Jacob Cutrera feigned a blitz then dropped back into coverage. Locker didn't see him as he threw a slant pass to Devin Aguilar that Cutrera tipped, caught and returned 29 yards for a touchdown.

"He just didn't see it," Sarkisian said. "But when you are in an offense that is going to throw as much as we are going to throw it, interceptions happen."

Sarkisian, though, preferred to focus on the positives, such as UW's 11 for 19 third-down conversion rate. Locker was an astounding 8-of-10 passing on third downs for 127 yards.

"We were forced into a lot of third-and-long situations and I thought he performed well on third-and-long," Sarkisian said.

Asked about his overall accuracy, Locker said "we missed some still. So we'll go back and look at the film and improve upon that. We've got to get better from what we did today."

The change in offense has led to a perception that Locker won't run much anymore. But he still had 12 carries for 51 yards, not that far off his career average of 14.25 carries per game. Sarkisian indicated afterward that Locker could run more in the future.

"Every game is going to vary some," Sarkisian said. "This is a physical team and the hits he did take took their toll on him. That was a big, physical football team that was violent when they got there. ... So it's going to vary from game to game. But that was a pretty good indicator."

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