BYU football: Lockerís looking for a little redemption in rematch

Published: Thursday, Sept. 2 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

BYU’s David Nixon sacks Washington quarterback Jake Locker (10) in their 2008 game. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News archives) BYU’s David Nixon sacks Washington quarterback Jake Locker (10) in their 2008 game. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News archives)

PROVO — In some ways, The Penalty still haunts Jake Locker.

Two years ago, the Washington quarterback broke a couple of tackles and stumbled into the end zone for a touchdown against BYU with two seconds remaining, capping a 17-play drive and cutting the Huskies' deficit to 28-27.

What happened immediately following that TD was replayed countless times on national television and hotly debated for days around the country. After scoring, Locker flipped the ball high into the air, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration.

Washington needed only an extra point to force overtime. But the 15-yard penalty forced a 35-yard PAT attempt, which was blocked by BYU's Jan Jorgensen.

With that defeat, the Huskies dropped to 0-2. Locker broke the thumb on his right hand in the fourth game and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Washington went on to go 0-12 in 2008, resulting in the end of the coach Tyrone Willingham era.

"It was a tough loss for us," Locker recalled this week when asked about his memories of that BYU contest. "It was a game that, in my opinion, if it had gone differently, it might have given us a different outcome that year. Obviously, I remember the way we lost. It sticks with you for a while."

Locker gets a rematch against BYU on Saturday (5 p.m., CBS-C), when the Huskies visit LaVell Edwards Stadium.

For Locker, a senior who's a Heisman Trophy candidate and the projected No. 1 pick in next April's NFL draft, lessons have been learned.

"I'll take the ball to the referee, this Saturday, for sure," Locker said with laugh.

What happened on Sept. 6, 2008, is still fresh in his mind.

"I felt bad because I put our team in a situation that was more difficult than it should have been," he said. "Looking back on it, I told (his teammates) I was sorry that we were put in that situation and lost the game because of it.

"But I'm not sorry for what I did. I was having fun. I wasn't trying to embarrass BYU at that point. I scored a touchdown that could have tied the game. That's pretty exciting. I celebrated with my teammates. I felt bad for putting our team in a bad situation. But I didn't feel bad for what I had done."

On the BYU side, coach Bronco Mendenhall remembers only two plays from that game — Locker throwing the ball in the air, and the blocked kick.

For the Cougars, there were lessons learned as well.

"Playing all the way to the end and the idea that the rules are the rules and you need to execute all the way though to the very last second," Mendenhall said. "Ultimately, as long as you have a chance to play another play, you have a chance to win or lose the game.

"From what I remember of that game, a lot was alluded to that the penalty was what cost (Washington) the game and made the difference. To me, what determined the outcome of the game was executing (a blocked kick)."

Months earlier, in the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl, BYU blocked a last-second field goal attempt by UCLA that preserved a 17-16 win, which taught the Cougars about playing hard to the end.

"It was a big statement for our team," safety Andrew Rich said of the big Washington block. "For me, it cemented the character of our team."

Cougar defensive lineman Vic So'oto broke his foot on the second play of that contest, finished the series, then came off the field. He missed the rest of the season. He remembers watching the second half from the sidelines on crutches.

"Actually, I have great memories of that Washington game — since we won," So'oto said this week.

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson was serving an LDS mission when that game was played, but he's watched a replay of it.

"That was an exciting game. It was a battle until the end," he said. "It took a judgment call by the official. It took a miraculous play by us to block the extra point. So I expect much of the same on Sept. 4. It's going to be a battle. They're a good football team. And we expect the same kind of game."

Not long after the conclusion of the 2008 season, Washington hired former BYU All-American quarterback Steve Sarkisian as its head coach.

Two years ago, Washington's program was in a downward spiral. For the Huskies, who went 5-7 in Sarkisian's first season, a victory Saturday at BYU might signal that the Huskies are on the cusp of returning to their glory days.

And a Washington win would likely soothe Locker's bad memories from that 2008 game against the Cougars.

"I'm sure Locker hasn't forgotten about that experience," Rich said. "Maybe it's kind of died down a little bit because of the coaching change and the new players and stuff like that. But I'm sure they remember that.

"I'm sure coach Sarkisian will talk to them a little bit about that. I don't think the fact we beat them in 2008 is going to make them want to beat us any more. They're going to want to win the game just like we want to win the game."

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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