At the beginning of this season, expectations were high in Montlake. QB Jake Locker was the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, and the Dawgs were potentially going to challenge for the Pac-10 title. Once the season started, all of those expectations were dramatically changed.
The loss to BYU caused people to think that QB Locker had no more magic. The Syracuse game started slow, but showed that the Huskies could put away a weaker opponent.
Nebraska came in and manhandled the Huskies. They outplayed them, crushed Locker's Heisman dreams, and "out competed" the Dawgs all day.
In past years, this was the point where Huskies fans would be disheartened, prepare themselves for a rough season, and hyper-focus on the Apple Cup to salve their wounds.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Cup. USC happened. After Nebraska, most media pundits believed that Washington would again be overmatched by USC's talent—despite the sanctions. If a running back was to rush for 200+ yards, clearly the Huskies would be beaten down.
In a game that featured 1000+ yards of offense, the Huskies showed one thing we thought they had lost—character. They didn't get flustered despite seven lead changes. They didn't get discouraged after their first late-4th-quarter-drive sputtered on three consecutive dropped passes. They dug in.
After the USC kick went off the upright, Jake Locker and his teammates trotted onto the field to show the national audience that the rumors of their death had been exaggerated. Despite having been dropped from all the Heisman discussions, Jake Locker drove his team down the field and Folk-ed the ranked Trojans for the second year in a row.
Locker's final stat line—24-of-39 for 313 yds with 12 rushes for 111 yards—would be a great day regardless of the opponent. Performing that well against USC in a win takes it to another level. A team outclassed by 35 points at home is now 1-0 in the Pac-10.
Locker and the Huskies will face many more tests this season—but compared to two weeks ago—the future is significantly brighter. They now have confidence to play well in a tough road game against a powerful opponent and come out with the W. They will need every ounce of that confidence and strength to play at Arizona, Cal and most especially at Oregon.