Nebraska runs over Washington
NFL scouts, I know you're in love with Jake Locker. I know he's a great guy, he has the prototype tools, and he has the mobility and the speed that make him a special all-around athlete. But, please, PLEASE, will you finally concede that he can't throw a forward pass? Will you finally jump on my three-year bandwagon? There's room.
I hate that I'm always criticizing the UW senior. I want to see him do well and I really hope he turns into the player that everyone keeps expecting him to be, but we're talking about a possible No. 1 overall pick here. If this was just another college quarterback, the harsh scrutiny would be kept to a bare minimum, but with a $60 million investment about to be made in a few months (if there's still an NFL next April), everything Locker does has to come under the microscope.
I've been asking everyone in the scouting game why there's such a disconnect between Locker's talent and his play on the field, and there's always the same line about the lack of playmakers around him and about how he's just growing into his talent. This is his fourth year as a major player, and he's getting worse.
The No. 1 pick in the draft completes more than 4-of-20 passes for 71 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against the New Orleans Saints, much less the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The No. 1 pick in the draft is able to complete passes to covered receivers, and he's able to look off the one who's blanketed the most to the one who has the single coverage to exploit. Locker hasn't shown any touch, he doesn't fit the ball into tight spaces like he should, and his running ability appears to be a slight hindrance since he relies on it to bail him out of jams.
That's not to say he can't get better in a big hurry with more coaching and more time, and that's not to say he might not become night-and-day better once he hits the pros and he has more talented players around him, but for now, I want to see it.
Washington had a chance against Nebraska, even though the defense didn't do anything to help the cause, but the offense couldn't keep up the pace. Taylor Martinez was the best quarterback in Seattle, and while he's not going to be a multi-millionaire any time soon (at least not playing quarterback), he did what he needed to do to get his team the win. Locker didn't.
It might be time to add Nebraska to the short list of schools in contention for a national championship. It’s early, but it’s starting to look like the class of the Big12.
The Huskers turned a potential landmine into a goldmine on Saturday, delivering a stunningly dominant effort on the road. Playing a feisty Husky team in Seattle seemed as if it’d be wrought with hurdles. Uh-uh. Nebraska jolted Washington back to the Ty Willingham days, out gaining its host 534 to 246. Big Red didn’t just beat U-Dub, it destroyed it with a downhill running game that produced three 100-yard rushers and six touchdowns on the ground. It was a clinic on how to physically maul an opponent and rob it of its confidence and execution. Jake Locker was still a fringe Heisman contender this morning. After going 4-of-20 for 70 yards, a touchdown, and two picks, he’ll be fortunate to contend for All-Pac-10 honorable mention recognition. Nebraska didn’t show much in the passing with Taylor Martinez, but the way it’s running the ball, it may not matter this year.
The Huskers are back … in a big way, which makes me wonder. Where would this program be today if it had hired Bo Pelini, who coached the team on interim basis in the Alamo Bowl, back in 2004 instead of Bill Callahan? It’s water under the bridge now, but it’s amazing that then-AD Steve Peterson had a budding star on the payroll, yet failed to promote him when so many others, including a bunch of players, felt Pelini was the obvious choice.
If not for a stupid decision by Bo Pelini to switch quarterbacks, Nebraska would have put away Washington before halftime. Nevertheless, the Huskers hammered the homestanding Huskies in Seattle. The Big 12 North favorite established physical and tactical superiority in the opening minutes of play, and after wobbling late in the first quarter, the Huskers were never seriously threatened. Taylor Martinez never should have been taken out of this game, but once the Nebraska coaching staff stopped being cute, the scoreboard stopped being kind to Washington.
Pelini and his staff have to be delighted with what they saw on Saturday. Nebraska manhandled Washington up front and ran the ball at will. Martinez has a lot of work to do as a passer, but that’s only going to be a serious concern for the Big Red against the likes of Texas and (if the Big 12 Championship Game allows for it) Oklahoma. As long as Nebraska plays with this level of muscular energy against its Big 12 North opponents, a division title shouldn’t be in doubt for the lads from Lincoln.
The one thing Husker fans must keep in mind before feeling too good about this game is this: The Pac-10 Conference owns a lot of woeful defenses. One day after Cal got eviscerated by Nevada, UW absorbed a pronounced pounding on its home turf. Nebraska needs to beat someone far more credentialed than Washington before it is viewed as a legitimate national-title contender.