Saturday was a big test for the Huskies program. There was a lot of hope among the Husky fan base that this is the year UW could break out of that losing funk, and take on a big challenge. Nebraska came to Husky Stadium and humbled the over-hyped Huskies 56-21.
The preseason was kind to Washington, from having Locker tabbed as a potential Heisman candidate, and the team expected to be somewhat of a dark horse in the Pac-10. Game one gave the fans a hint that this team just isn’t there yet, and Nebraska ran all over any doubt in the minds of the viewers.
The state of this program is neither as bad as Nebraska made it look, or as close to turning the corner as it appeared. The fact is this is an incredibly young team, and having an athlete like Locker raised the expectations for this team beyond what they appear to be capable of.
Locker himself has been heaped with praise by the national media, but has yet to put up one of those performances that have the crowd saying to themselves, “this guy just has IT.” Physically he has all the tools, but does he not just have the ability to will his team to a victory? It doesn’t seem like it, as there have been opportunities for him to carry his team, and they have come up short.
That isn’t to say Locker can’t make an excellent pro. He has all the tools to be a successful NFL Quarterback, but he needs time and coaching to get better at the position. You can see the improvement in his pocket passing, but he is not ready to carry his team from the pocket. Locker is now hesitant on when to throw or run. This is a natural process for a run first quarterback by nature, but unlike other college coaches, Sarkisian is trying to make the transition in college, and not just take advantage of his natural abilities to win games.
While Willingham’s all Locker offense got him hurt, it is becoming frustrating to watch a quarterback as athletically gifted as there is struggle, when other run first quarterbacks are finding so much success at the college level. Would Sarkisian be better served to let Jake off his leash, and let the NFL worry about making him a pocket passer?
There is talent on this offense, but it is inconsistent. While watching the games you can see how Locker has changed in the pocket, but he is not comfortable running the offense. There are missed opportunities for easy points, and it hard to shake the thought that if Locker was not so worried about his pocket presence he could be establishing himself as a dual threat and opening up the other players on the offense.
Defensively this team has been sputtering for years. It is an incredibly young team, but it is obvious though the first three games that they are not even close to being a reliable defense. How much of is it is talent, and how much is it the coordinator? This defense would most likely struggle under anyone this year, but Holt is not showing much improvement at all. There is a difference between struggling and flat failing.
It is hard to look for positives after a beating like Nebraska just gave Washington, but there is still hope for this program. The talent the coaching staff has brought in is an upgrade, and will continue to be so. Any team playing as many freshmen as Washington has been will usually struggle. Had it not been for Locker’s presence, this team would not have had near the hype that they did.
Because of that this team was overrated in the pre-season. The Huskies are still rebuilding, and calling for a break out year in 2010 is looking more and more premature. The question is, how pre-mature were these predictions?
In that way this game was truly a good test. Washington fans had hoped that the Huskies were ready to play with big boys, but Nebraska reminded us all, this is still a rebuilding team.
This team will not stay down forever, and how they respond to the rest of this year will tell us if by the time to PAC-12 is formed, if Washington will be compete ting, or starting yet another rebuilding project. Don't lose faith yet though, Husky Fans, Sarkisian is still bringing in talent and depth. It is disturbing to see the team get man-handled like it's 2008, but this team will grow and learn.