All of us – the reeling University of Washington football team, exasperated and exhausted Husky nation, even the press corps – get a much-needed break as the lights dim for the next seven days for the bye week.
Coach Steve Sarkisian will hold his usual Monday press conference, the team will work out lightly Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and after that, it's time to rest up and prepare for road games at UCLA and Oregon State.
Today, I want to address the status of Jake Locker, whose production has not only leveled off after a stunning three-game start at Husky Stadium, he's sore, he's frustrated and he, like his teammates, are starting to see a bowl game as an unlikely possibility.
Up front, it's vital to recognize the flaws of this UW offense. Receivers drop balls in critical moments. Receivers are in and out of the lineup because of injuries. Defensive linemen seem to be getting easier and easier shots at Locker in passing downs, and one reason for that is the personnel fluctuation in the offensive line.
Since that remarkable late-game drive against No. 3 USC, pulling out a 16-13 victory over the Trojans, here is Locker's numbers in the past five games:
• He's completing 53.8 percent of his passes (91-of-169).• He's averaging 220.4 passing yards per game.• He's tossed seven TD passes, and six interceptions.• He's been sacked 13 times in five games.
Sure, when you face Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon – four of the better defenses in the Pacific-10 Conference – numbers are likely to suffer a little bit. But it's more than that, and Saturday was as good of an example as any to Locker's struggles.
Trying to do too much, he's forcing the action way too much.
Sarkisian mentioned it after the game Saturday, that when Locker stayed calm and relaxed, as he was much of the first quarter, the offense was fluid and able to move the ball against Oregon.
Something changed after he threw the red-zone interception in the end zone on fourth down midway through the second quarter.
On the UW's next drive, he badly misfired on a pass to James Johnson. And then his next offering was way too high for tight end Kavario Middleton in the left flat, and was nearly picked off – again - by Spencer Paysinger.
Starting on that drive, and carrying over to the next two series, Locker missed in five of eight passes, and was sacked twice.
On critical occasions, he appears trapped behind his old style (taking off and running) and his new way (staying in the pocket), and ends up deciding on the wrong means.
How can a guy not start to lose confidence when it breaks down in that manner? Locker showed that.
"This is a very fine line we're operating with when we're trying to change the complexion of a guy's game," said Sarkisian, who for the first time really addressed Locker's development as something that will take longer than he might be used to.
"I knew it wasn't going to happen overnight. Obviously he had some really early success, as we did. And we're going to have growing pains. That goes without saying.
"The challenge for us, and for Jake, is to learn from these games and learn from this style of play and where's the happy medium? Where can he take the running style he had previously (at Ferndale) and where can he fit it in this scheme that we're running."
Sarkisian said the bye week will give he, offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and Locker ample time to sit down and re-evaluate the first seven games, and get the junior back on track.
Note: I will be on an unpaid furlough for this week, and am instructed to not be involved in any UW-related stuff. Ryan Divish, who does a masterful job with the Mariners and Seahawks blog, will be filling in for me, and will provide updates through the light week.
An unfortunate business decision. See y'all in eight days heading into the UCLA week.