Coach Steve Sarkisian wouldn't go as far as calling it stage fright – running through plays over and over with 2,000 curious spectators watching – but the Huskies' first-string offense certainly was slow to warm up to the reception Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.
And then Jake Locker and company got going.
Locker, in perhaps his best single drive in preseason camp, and certainly his most effective showing since the UW's Spring Game, directed the offense 80 yards to a touchdown in 10 plays to start the second half.
And it wasn't a typical dink-and-dunk, wear-you-out drive, either. Receiver Jordan Polk went 25 yards on an end-around. And Locker converted two longer third downs on passes – one a 9-yarder to James Johnson on third-and-7, and a 16-yarder to Polk on third-and-15.
The pass to Polk was laid in there ideally on a crossing pattern, getting the ball to the opposing 12-yard line. Running back Johri Fogerson did the rest, going 11 yards on a run on the next play, and plunging in on the next play for a 1-yard touchdown.
"That's the challenge, to keep drives alive," Sarkisian said. "You've got to convert third downs, and then to get into the red zone, you have to score touchdowns. That was a nice job by those guys.
"I just thought Jake was really good all day. I thought the receivers and tight ends had to get kind of settled in and just playing ball, and I thought they did that in the second half."
Locker and the No. 1 offense played six series, all the way into the fourth period. Locker also directed a six-play, 63-yard scoring drive in his final appearance, capped by a 20-yard scoring strike to Jermaine Kearse in the back of the end zone.
"Yeah, I thought we put ourselves in some tough downs and distances, so we have some things we need to clean up offensively. But I thought that when we needed to make plays on third down and convert, we stepped up and made some plays and kept the chains moving," Locker said. "We didn't always do it but we had a few drives where we stepped up and made plays and gave ourselves a chance to score some points, so I thought we did a good job in that aspect."
Here was the drive sequences for Locker and the No. 1 offense:
&bull 1st drive: Locker was 3-of-5, including a 29-yard pass to James Johnson. The drive ended on Erik Folk's 32-yard field goal.
&bull 2nd drive: Penalties, 3-and-out.
&bull 3rd drive: Three-and-out.
&bull 4th drive: Locker's best drive, and first one of the second half. Locker was 5-of-5 for 46 yards, and was 2-for-2 in converting third downs (one on a 9-yard pass to Johnson, and the other on a 16-yard pass to Jordan Polk). Fogerson capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD plunge up the middle.
&bull 5th drive: Three-and-out.
&bull 6th drive: Went 73 yards for a TD. Locker was 2-of-3, including a 25-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse to start it out, and capped it with a 20-yard TD strike to Kearse in the back of the end zone.
Locker finished 12-of-19 for 181 yards.
The interesting part was who lined up with Locker on the scrimmage's first series – Polk, the big-play threat who has had the best week of camp of the receivers; and Johnson, the true freshman from Valley Center, Calif.
When the offense went to three receivers, it was usually those two group with D'Andre Goodwin the majority of the time. When it was a two-receiver set, it was Polk and Johnson, and a lot of two-tight end stuff with Kavario Middleton and Chris Izbicki.
"Definitely with Jordan, he is one of the fastest guys I've ever played against, or seen play. Once he gets going, it's hard to stop. He's real quick in and out," Huskies linebacker Mason Foster said. "J.J. is just a great athlete. He can jump and run and runs precise routes. It's a big challenge.
"They definitely have more (big-play potential)."
All in all, Sarkisian noted he was pleased with how the scrimmage went.
"I thought it went relatively well for a scrimmage atmosphere. I thought offensively, we started slow, especially in the first half," the first-year coach said. "We started to execute in the second half. I thought our defense played physical, early on.
"I thought in general, it took our guys, as a group, as a team, awhile to get adjusted to the fact they were out on the field on their own, and not out there with the coaches yelling and screaming and having everyone around."
Other aspects from the scrimmage:
&bull There were nine plays of 20 or more yards – and reserve running back Curtis Shaw had three of them, including the two longest ones. He had a 29-yard run off a counter play in the first period. He got loose for a 49-yard run, setting up Curtis Polk's 2-yard TD scamper, in the third period. And caught a 45-yard pass where he juked safety Nathan Fellner on the right sideline and set up another score late in the fourth period.
Lakes High product Jermaine Kearse had a pair of them, too – 25-yard and 20-yard receptions from Locker.
&bull Defensive end Everrette Thompson, the Kennedy High product, has his best showing with a pair of tackles, including one for a loss. He even played a snap with the first-string defense after Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was pulled and given an earful by defensive coordinator Nick Holt.
Te'o-Nesheim came in shortly afterward, perhaps a little motivated, and drew a holding penalty on guard Senio Kelemete, who pulled him to the ground.
"We're going to have to roll in some D-linemen. For us to really be effective on defense, we need to play a good eight defensive linemen, maybe 10," Sarkisian said. "And those guys need to be able to roll through and substitute and play, and play at a high level. So, I'm excited about Everrette. He has a little nagging ankle thing going, too, and he played really well today."
&bull Wilson High graduate Desmond Trufant played a lot, including some with the No. 2 defense. And he recorded his first tackle for loss, dropping Demitrius Bronson for a 1-yard loss in the second period.
&bull Quinton Richardson began the second half with a 98-yard kickoff return for a score.
&bull Each backup quarterback led a scoring drive. Keith Price did it in the fourth period, but without a pass. Curtis Shaw broke off a 49-yard run, and that set up Chris Polk's 2-yard touchdown run. Ronnie Fouch did it in the fourth period as well, connecting with Shaw on a 45-yard pass. He threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Tobias Togi off a misdirection play.
&bull Guys who were not in pads and did not play: Linebacker Matt Houston (arm), safety Will Shamburger (knee), cornerback Matt Mosley (knee), free safety Jason Wells (achilles), strong safety Victor Aiyewa (head), center Ryan Tolar (toe), offensive tackle Skyler Fancher (ankle), offensive guard Morgan Rosborough (shoulder) and offensive tackle Terence Thomas (foot).
Fullback Paul Homer (hamstring) suited up, but did not play.
On Fancher: "He got it rolled upon pretty good. He's going to probably be a few more days out. I don't think he's going to be someone that is going to pop back in the next day or so. I think it's going to take him a little while."
On Aiyewa: "Funny thing sometimes about when a guys get concussions, or mild concussion, you think it's the big, violent hits that cause them. He's had a bunch of great hits all camp. That one was almost a nothing hit, it was in 7-on-7 period. Shoot, he's missed almost five days now. Hopefully sooner rather than later. We want to make sure he's safe."
&bull This is one of the great things about a new coach with fresh ideas, and isn't jaded about how negative the media is. Sarkisian just dropped by the press room to tell us that he was surprising the team by taking them to a movie called "District 9." What a guy.
&bull And, as always, for complete scrimmage statistics, visit http://www.gohuskies.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/082209aaa.html