Hanging with the Huskies

SU puts its 1-0 record on the line as it travels Saturday to face Washington.

Syracuse knows all about Washington quarterback Jake Locker, after all, the Orange hosted his coming out party. In 2007 Locker made his first collegiate start and led the Huskies to a 42-12 rout of the Orange. Saturday, Syracuse is looking to get a little revenge.

Sophomore Chandler Jones remembers Locker's debut well as he was in the Dome cheering for his older brother Art – now a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

“(Art) wants us to win very badly,” said Jones after speaking with his brother last Saturday. “He called me … and told me to get a few sacks on Jake Locker for him.”

Syracuse players and coaches are saying all the right things heading into Saturday’s matchup with Washington. They have to focus on the whole team, they won’t let their dominating performance at Akron go to their head and they’ll have to improve to get a win against the Huskies.

Reading between the lines, however, it’s clear the Orange have focused the majority of their attention on Locker.Jake Locker

“He’s a guy that can take a play that you have defended really well and move the pocket with his feet," said SU defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. "He can turn a four second play into and eight second play, and that’s a long time to hang on to receivers and that sort of thing.

“There’s a reason why he’s arguably one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.”

Locker may be the most high-profile player the Orange face all season. The senior could have been a top 10 pick in last year’s NFL draft had he elected to declare himself eligible. He entered 2010 at the top of many draft boards and Heisman Trophy watch lists.

Despite all those accolades, the Huskies have had limited success with Locker at the helm. His best season was in 2009 when they finished 5-7. That is just one more win than the Orange recorded last year. And, unlike Syracuse, Washington dropped its 2010 season opener on the road at BYU, 23-17.

Now the Orange must travel across the country to face 70,000 rabid fans hoping for their first win of the season. SU running back coach Tyrone Wheatley said he’s been telling the players to take a look around the stadium early so they’re not distracted during the game.

Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib said the Orange have been anticipating the crowd noise and have been preparing all week in practice as well.

“We are expecting a loud crowd out there in Washington, I heard it’s a really loud stadium," Nassib said. "We’ve been working with the crowd noise and just getting accustomed with it with the signals and whatever.

“It’s not the first time we’ve played in a loud stadium, we know the Dome gets pretty loud at times. It really is just fun when you’re out there and everyone is screaming, it just kind of fuels your fire.”

Though Locker garners all the national attention, he is not the only offensive weapon the Huskies possess. Running back Chris Polk rushed for 1,113 yards and five touchdowns in 2009, and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has put up big numbers. Both players posted good stats against BYU, and Shafer knows he’ll have his hands full Saturday.

“It’s the offense, the whole, you can’t focus on the parts," Shafer said. When you focus on the parts, then you have a breakdown.

“If you take one thing away, you’re usually giving another thing up, so you have to be careful. That’s been our focus while planning for this game.”

Last week against the Zips, Syracuse turned in a stellar defensive performance that included a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. Akron was held to 166 total yards and single digit first downs.

Jones and Shafer both dispelled notions that the defense will be entering the Washington game with any type of cockiness or arrogance. Jones said they are hoping to open some eyes though.

“Winning this game will be a big boost on this season. It will be definitely an upset alert,” he said. “Maybe if we’re winning by halftime, ESPN will switch over and watch our game or something.”

Well the game won't be aired on ESPN, it is slated to start at 7 p.m. Eastern time and will air locally on Time Warner Cable Sports.

Photo courtesy of Beyond Neon/flickr.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.