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Originally published September 18, 2010 at 7:18 PM | Page modified September 18, 2010 at 9:48 PM

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Steve Kelley

Time is running out for Jake Locker

Nine Pac-10 Conference games and maybe — maybe — a bowl game are all that remain for Locker at Washington, and the alarming truth is that he's not living up to his great expectations.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Quickly, like the pages of a novel flipping in the breeze, the games are slipping away from Jake Locker.

The opportunities to do something amazing, the chances to win the kind of games that matter, the plays that can put him in the rarefied company of past Washington quarterbacks like Bob Schloredt, Sonny Sixkiller, Warren Moon, Mark Brunell, Hugh Millen, and Damon and Brock Huard, are dwindling.

Nine Pac-10 Conference games and maybe — maybe — a bowl game are all that remain for Locker at Washington, and the alarming truth is that he's not living up to his great expectations.

This late into Locker's college career, he still is pressing. He still is struggling with his accuracy and still making mistakes when his team needs him to make plays.

On Saturday against Nebraska, at a time in his career when he should be having the greatest afternoons of his life, Locker played his worst game as a Husky.

From the first pass of the game, when he threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Nebraska defensive back Eric Hagg, Locker foundered.

That first ill-conceived pass became the harbinger of Saturday's shockingly lopsided 56-21 Washington loss.

"It was maybe a little bit him pressing, wanting to make a play early," coach Steve Sarkisian said of Locker's first interception. "The excitement, the adrenaline of the game."

The first month of the season is finished for Washington (1-2), so let's forget about the Heisman Trophy and all the other postseason awards that put Locker on their summer short lists.

The rest of this season, for Locker, is about getting better, about growing into the kind of quarterback his talent says he should be.

It's time for Locker, who has won just nine of his 31 games at Washington, to start consistently making plays. He has to find a way to relax in college football's crucible.

He has to become a mistake-free, on-the-field leader. He has to live up to the promises, while he's living inside the pressure.

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"There was the potential for a little pressure today," Sarkisian said. "He (Locker) was going against a great pass defense. And with that comes a little pressure, but that's just natural. That's the way great athletes, they thrive on that. They accept it. They love it. I don't think any differently of Jake. I think the same way."

Nebraska was a gauge game for Locker. In front of an ABC audience, in front of a sellout crowd that was a dramatic mix of Husky purple and Husker red, this was Locker's best chance to show just how far he has progressed.

Instead, he regressed.

On this day when he had so much to gain, he lost.

"I know we can throw the football better than that," Sarkisian said.

Locker completed just 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown. He threw two picks. It was the kind of game that defied description, a game that might have been excused when he was a freshman, but is unacceptable for a senior.

"They made plays on the ball that I haven't seen in a while," Sarkisian said of Nebraska's defensive backs. "I don't think he is going to see a better secondary than we saw today. And I don't know if people are going to apply more pressure than what Nebraska did today.

"But I'm not going to put it all on Jake's progress and him becoming the quarterback I know he can be. I'm going to put it on these guys (Nebraska) played pretty good football today, and unfortunately we didn't play very good team football."

These are the defining games for a quarterback with All-American skills like Locker's. And this was his second failed exam of the season's first month.

In Washington's first game, a 23-17 loss to BYU, Locker had three chances in the final quarter to march the Huskies to a victory. He was 0 for 3.

"There's still a lot of football to be played," Locker said. "And the best thing about a game like this is that we get to play another one (USC) in two weekends. It's really important for us to put this one behind us and have two good weeks of work."

The season slips away quickly. Autumn weekends rush past until a senior football player checks the schedule and sees his career is almost done.

Jake Locker has nine games left to live up to his enormous potential. Nine games that will pass in a furious flash.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Jake's worst games
Jake Locker has had five games in which he has thrown for fewer than 105 yards.
Date Opponent Result Comp. Att. Yards TDs Int
Nov. 10, 2007 @Oregon State L, 29-23 6 14 16 0 0
Sept. 27, 2008 Stanford L, 35-28 5 9 51 0 0
Sept. 18, 2010 Nebraska L, 56-21 4 20 71 1 2
Sept. 29, 2007 USC L, 27-24 13 28 90 0 1
Aug. 30, 2008 @Oregon L, 44-10 12 28 103 0 0

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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