Huskies give Locker nice send-off
The numbers were far from what Jake Locker wanted playing in Husky Stadium for the final time.
The celebration was exactly why he returned to Washington.
Playing with a cracked rib, Locker scored on a 3-yard run in the first half, and Quinton Richardson returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown with 6:22 left to help Washington keep its fledgling bowl hopes alive with an ugly 24-7 win over UCLA on Thursday night.
Locker's rib was such a concern that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said he seriously considered keeping Locker on the bench. Ultimately, he called a conservative game that rarely exposed the Huskies' senior quarterback.
''I felt really good and (Sarkisian) knew I was going to be really honest with him,'' Locker said. ''We have a really good open relationship and I truly don't believe he would have let me be out there all week practicing and thinking I'm going to play without that intention.''
Instead, the bulk of this one was put on the shoulders of running backs Chris Polk and Jesse Callier, and a Washington defense that limited UCLA to just 51 yards of offense in the final 3 1/2 quarters.
Polk carried 25 times for a career-high 138 yards and capped the best night of his career with a 2-yard TD plunge with 4:24 left. Callier, the Huskies' speedy freshman, added 107 yards as Washington (4-6, 3-4 Pac-10) saw two backs top 100 yards for the first time in three years.
Washington finished with a season-high 253 yards rushing.
''We knew that we were going to run the ball, but I had no clue that we were gonna just keep running it like that,'' Polk said. ''That was just a dream for me.''
Playing a prime-time Thursday game, the Huskies broke out all black uniforms for the first time in school history, even going as far as painting the end zones of Husky Stadium black.
They might want to consider doing it again.
In the final home game of his career, Locker was just 10 of 21 passing for 68 yards and an interception. He carried just four times for 9 yards as Washington coach Steve Sarkisian tried to protect the quarterback's tender ribs that kept him on the sideline Nov. 6 against Oregon.
Locker left to a huge ovation with 2 minutes remaining, replaced by freshman Keith Price. If he had a redo, Sarkisian said, he wished he would have called a timeout to give Locker more of a final moment.
After three straight losses, Washington kept its bowl hopes alive, but still needs wins at California (Nov. 27) and in the Apple Cup against Washington State (Dec. 4) to reach the needed six victories.
''This puts back a lot of life (in the season). Because we had some guys slipping away like, 'Aw, man, this again ...''' Polk said. ''But this just reassured us that what we're doing is right.''
Meanwhile, UCLA's hopes of going to a bowl game for the second straight season took a major hit. The Bruins (4-6, 2-5) close at Arizona State and at home against USC, needing to win both to get six victories.
For the moment, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel would simply like a quarterback that can run a functional offense. Starter Richard Brehaut went to the bench with a concussion midway through the third quarter after an awful incompletion that ended a Bruins drive at midfield.
Brehaut was chewed out by Neuheisel on his way to the bench. A few moments later, Neuheisel realized Brehaut wasn't right.
''I wanted to talk to him after the series to talk about the third-down play that I thought he didn't see what we just talked about and he couldn't recall what we had just talked about so I said you can't play anymore,'' Neuheisel said.
Enter Darius Bell, who had no previous playing experience. More of a running threat, Bell threw only three passes, the last one intercepted by Richardson. It was Washington's first interception return for a touchdown since Mason Foster's game-winning return against Arizona last season.
After throwing his interception, Bell was then replaced by Clayton Tunney as Neuheisel continued his revolving door of QBs. Tunney was intercepted on his third pass by safety Nate Fellner.
''We were down two scores and we needed to throw and Darius' strong suit is probably more as a runner in this offense,'' Neuheisel said, ''and I didn't think with six minutes left and change that we had the ability to be methodical. I know Clayton throws it pretty well and knows enough about our offense to go in there and throw it down the field.''
The trio of Bruins quarterbacks combined to go 6 of 25 with three interceptions. UCLA's offense, which rumbled for 97 yards in the first quarter behind the running of Johnathan Franklin, finished with just 163 total yards.
Franklin scored the Bruins' only touchdown on a 31-yard run in the first quarter and finished with 53 yards on 18 carries.