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Originally published November 28, 2009 at 9:59 PM | Page modified November 29, 2009 at 12:31 AM

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Locker finds a nice balance with season high in rushing

Jake Locker said he simply felt normal again. And that helped put some balance back into his game. A refreshed Locker — a bye week...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Jake Locker said he simply felt normal again.

And that helped put some balance back into his game.

A refreshed Locker — a bye week helping him feel as close to 100 percent as he has all season — took the wraps off his running skills and helped spark a 30-0 win over Washington State in Saturday's Apple Cup.

Locker rushed for a season-high 94 yards on 10 carries to power a Huskies rushing attack that gained 265, most since the 2007 season.

"I felt really good today," Locker said. "I felt like I had my legs under me for the first time in a while."

Locker, who rushed for 986 yards in 2007, had just 217 coming into Saturday's game as the Huskies have reconfigured their offense to feature more of a pro-style passing game.

But UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he has never intended for Locker to completely give up running the ball.

"There's got to be that balance," Sarkisian said. "We keep fighting for it with him, and trying to find out where it fits and how it's going to fit, and that fine line of keeping the vision and trying to make that throw compared to pulling it down on third and six or third and eight and running it. I think he's still finding his way through it."

The UW coaches, though, also thought opportunities for Locker to run would open up more against WSU than they have against other opponents.

"We knew they were going to put a lot of guys back in coverage and crowd some of our reads a little bit," said Locker, who had his best rushing game since going for 103 yards in the 2007 Apple Cup. "I knew I could check the ball down and get out of the pocket and create something."

Said Sarkisian: "We called some things to give him the opportunity to [run]. But something we tried to work on ... is keeping his vision, working through the pocket and [keeping] the ability to run the ball and make some plays, and he did that well again tonight."

Polk gets his 1,000

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Tailback Chris Polk made Huskies history Saturday by becoming the first freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

He rushed for 130 against the Cougars to up his total to 1,019, breaking the freshman mark set by Locker in 2007.

Polk said he hopes getting to 1,000 is just the beginning and he can "set more records."

He had just 31 yards at halftime.

"We changed the blocking schemes," Polk said. "And we ran some different plays. We ran more power and ran more straight at them instead of just trying to run around them."

Kearse perseveres

It hardly looked like a big day for UW sophomore receiver Jermaine Kearse when he dropped the first two passes that came his way.

But a pep talk from Sarkisian helped settled him down and Kearse responded with a big second quarter to help put the Huskies in control. He had three catches for 88 yards in the second quarter (four for 94 for the game), including a 50-yard TD on a play-action pass from Locker that put the Huskies ahead 10-0.

"I kind of pulled him aside and said, 'Hey, man, we are not going to get away from you, so figure it out, get through it, you are going to have opportunities,' " Sarkisian said. "And he bounced right back."

Jones goes all the way

Darrion Jones was one of four seniors making their last start on defense for UW in an Apple Cup, and the coaches decided to let him make the most of it, letting him play almost the entire way. He responded with one of his best days, getting a sack and also breaking up a pass when he dropped into coverage.

Notes

Dwight Tardy, the WSU senior running back, leaves with the distinction of having become the first known runner in school history to lead the team in rushing all four years.

He had only 37 yards on 14 carries against the Huskies, but finished the season with 417 yards. He had 667 in 2006, 676 in 2007 and 481 in 2008.

• The only quarterback whom WSU didn't get on the field at the injury-riddled position was highly regarded Jeff Tuel, who hurt a kneecap Nov. 7 at Arizona. Coach Paul Wulff said Tuel was "not 100 percent. He was just not ready."

• Wulff said he will meet individually with each player in the next few days, before what he called "a big, big recruiting weekend" in five days.

"We've got some commitments [pledged recruits] coming in, and some guys we want to close out," he said. "We've got an opportunity to possibly finalize our recruiting the first weekend of December."

Staff reporter Bud Withers contributed.

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