As you can well imagine, the scene after the game Saturday, in the bowels of Notre Dame Stadium, was wild and tense. Players were upset. Coaches were a tick off from losing it. And quarterback Jake Locker, the gentleman from Ferndale who was noticeably frustrated by the chain of events in the second half, bypassed the media and went straight to see his family.
Not only did people notice, they were a little stunned by Locker's snub.
Some reporters, frankly, were a little steamed at at the junior. Like it or not, he's a quarterback – he HAS to answer questions. Like it or not, he's the face of the program, especially nationally. And like it or not, he was stuffed three times from the Irish 1-yard line.
Come Monday, all was well – or at least much improved. Coach Steve Sarkisian was chipper, even cracked a couple of jokes. And Locker was available to answer any and all questions, like he usually does on Mondays in his only pre-game weekly availability.
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"It was difficult, yeah. I felt bad for our guys, I felt bad for our coaches," Locker said. "When you put that much effort into something, it’s hard to not get the outcome that you’d like."
He was then asked about why he chose not to speak to reporters afterward, and composed a very reasonable and well-thought out response.
"I didn’t feel like I was in the best emotional state to answer questions. I didn’t want to have to sit up here today and explain anything. I felt like it was in my best interest and the team’s best interest to take some time to cool down," said the Pacific-10 Conference's top passer. "That’s what I thought after the game."
Apparently, he didn't talk much to teammates Saturday night, either. The day after, he came into the coaches' office and had a sitdown with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier about the offense's costly missed opportunities in the 37-30 overtime loss.
"I think that helped, just to discuss that stuff," Locker said. "I’m over it. It was difficult after the game, I’m not going to lie to you. I hung onto it a little bit yesterday. But I’m excited for another week of preparation and getting ready for another conference game against Arizona."
Sarkisian, too, was asked about how Locker handled the whole situation following the loss.
"I looked at it really simply, that this guy has been speaking to the media for three years in the worst of times. In the hardest of times, he stood tall and was a man about things," Sarkisian said. "After this ball game, he was emotional. He had a big part in the game. We could have won the game. He was emotional. I don't blame him for not wanting to talk, because when you are emotional, you can say things sometimes that you might regret later and some things are better left unsaid. He didn't feel like talking.
"I felt this guy deserved a mulligan on that one."
Other stuff from the Monday press conference:
• Freshman Justin Glenn (right leg) will have surgery Wednesday to repair not only the broken fibula after his collision with linebacker Donald Butler on the first play of the second half (Golden Tate's 77-yard TD catch and run), but there was ligament damage detected in his ankle.
As for what's next, Sarkisian inferred that it might be Victor Aiyewa's turn to seize the starting position at strong safety, moving Nate Williams to Glenn's spot at free safety.
"I thought Victor Aiyewa did some nice things for us when he got his opportunities – some nice things on special teams and on defense," Sarkisian said. "So I think you'll see more of Victor."
It makes sense this week for Arizona, which features a run-oriented offense with Nic Grigsby, to have a pair of natural strong safeties in Williams and Aiyewa back there. Later down the line, for pass-happy Oregon, it could be Greg Walker, who is better in coverage.
Jason Wells and Nate Fellner could also get in the mix, the first-year coach said.
• As far as the rest of the infirmary report, linebacker E.J. Savannah (foot) and receiver Devin Aguilar (knee), who missed the Notre Dame, will be back. Also should Williams and receiver D'Andre Goodwin (concussions), who appear to be responding well in the early going this week.
• Did Chris Polk get in on a 6-yard TD run that would have put the game away? Official replays reversed the initial ruling on the field.
And did Notre Dame really get in the end zone on the two-point conversion with 1:20 remaining (it was on Robert Hughes' run) to take a 30-27 lead?
Sarkisian said he watched the television-produced broadcast, and still disagreed that Polk's TD run should have been reversed.
"The bottom line with the rule of replay is there has to be indisputable evidence – overwhelming evidence – and I didn't see that," Sarkisian said. "But that's not my call. I'm not an official. I think one thing we will learn here from a football program standpoint is let's just control what we can control and not get concerned about things that we don't have control over. And we can't control replay, we can't control a decision that is a judgment call."
Polk was apparently still miffed by the call. To a pool of reporters Monday, he said, "Everyone knows. If they watch the replays, they know that on the two-point conversion (late in the fourth quarter, the Notre Dame runner's) knee was down. And they know that when I scored, it was a touchdown.
"They didn’t beat us, the refs beat us, in a sense.”
• Was there a call Sarkisian would have liked back?
Yes – on fourth down, on the second quarterback sneak on Notre Dame's first goal-line stand.
"Jake was so close on the first one that I ran another one out of a different formation, a different personnel grouping," Sarkisian said. "We probably should have run something else. But he was so close on the first one, I almost challenged the first one because I really thought he had gotten in when he spun and he had the ball on his left arm that I felt, 'Man, we are getting enough push that he can get into the end zone.'"
• Jimmy Clausen's 422 passing yards against the Huskies were a career high, eclipsing the 401 he had against Hawaii.
Sarkisian said he thought the UW defense defended the outside fade patterns fairly well. It did get hurt on a couple seam routes.
"What I was upset about is we had some things in our rush lanes that we didn't execute the way I know we should have executed – but we have executed in the past – that allowed (Clausen) time to play football like he did in the park when he was in the second grade to the eighth grade," Sarkisian said. "He kind of just floated out to his right. Receivers were off their normal routes, and they were just finding open spots in zones. That makes it hard on any defense when a quarterback has that much time."
• And starting at left guard this week against the Wildcats is … SOMEBODY. It remains to be seen.
Gregory Christine's sore ankles forced him to miss the entire second half against the Irish. Nick Wood saw his first extensive action. He made mistakes, but Sarkisian said the sophomore from Poway, Calif. "showed an athletic effort that I think is a different makeup to our offensive line than we've had."
• And then there is the springy, balls-to-the-wall effort of walk-on running back Cole Sager, who was the surprise addition to the kickoff coverage team flanking Quinton Richardson.
Sarkisian said he prefers Sager over a bigger body such as Demitrius Bronson or Paul Homer because the true freshman will sacrifice his body at all costs as a lead blocker.
• The UW wore its alternative all-white uniforms Saturday for the first time. Asked who decided to do that, Sarkisian answered, "The Committee."
And who makes up that group?
"A few of us," he said, breaking up in laughter.
• The announcement on the Oregon game and whether it will be picked up by television will come next Monday. As of right now, the kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 24.
** PRACTICE MONDAY UPDATE: Not a lot happened in the one hour at Husky Stadium. Savannah (foot) and Aguilar (ankle) practiced fully with the first-string offense, as did Christine (ankles). … Williams and Goodwin (concussions) both wore the red no-contact jerseys and did not participate. … The brain trust of four media members figured out nine walk-ons have played this season, and that's not including Locker, who forfeited his scholarship when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels. … And here's a trivia stumper for you. With Sager playing Saturday, who was the last true freshman walk-on to see action for the Huskies? Answer: Scott Ask (1998), the long-snapper from Olympia High School.