The media corps, which can be spotted at various junctures throughout Husky Stadium for UW practices, certainly keeps a close eye on one thing.
All last week, after practices concluded after 1 hour, 45 minutes – or shorter – we wondered if coach Steve Sarkisian was getting soft in his practice habits. Turns out, he was sharpening not only his game-management approach, but perhaps most importantly – getting quality and quick snaps out of the offense.
The second half of the UW's 41-20 victory Saturday was a textbook clinic on offensive rhythm – something the Huskies struggled to find in the first six quarters of the season.
The team exploded for four second-half touchdowns – two on Jake Locker-to-Jermaine Kearse connections, and finally the long run by tailback Chris Polk (finalized after a superb seal block on the edge by fullback Austin Sylvester … check it out).
"Tempo was a point of emphasis for us all week," Sarkisian said in his post-game media address. "I hope it felt like a … no-huddle, but we're huddling."
The up-tempo action – big plays were coming from all angles – left a "downhill" traveling Syracuse defense dazed and a bit out of sorts, especially on the perimeter.
"We looked like we were one step behind," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said.
About the short passes: "I wanted to get Jake feeling really good about us throwing the football. I thought we did some unique things in our run game … to soften them up."
It might have been the best game I've seen from the receiving group in one-plus seasons under Sarkisian (credit Jimmie Dougherty):
• Kearse, who had single-game career highs in receptions (nine), yards (179) and touchdown receptions (three, team's most since 2002), likely graded out close to perfect. All nine of his catches went for first downs or scores. He had no drops.
• When Locker was high or wide on his passes, Devin Aguilar did a remarkable job of hauling in some tough grabs. He also had a touchdown – a 14-yarder in the fourth quarter.
• Overshadowed, but certainly not lost was the downfield blocking of Aguilar and D'Andre Goodwin on Kearse's scores.
• With his 289-yard passing effort, Locker now has 5,929 career yards. He moved past Marques Tuiasosopo (5,879) and Damon Huard (5,886), and now sits No. 3 all-time among UW quarterbacks. Next up – Brock Huard (6,391).
A couple throws Saturday were up for grabs under pressure, but the Orange did not come away with an interception. Locker has five TDs, and zero interceptions in 2010.
• Injury-wise, Locker bruised his left hand in the second half – likely banging it against somebody's helmet. Sarkisian said he did not think the senior would miss practice time this week. … Defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (leg) suffered a quadriceps contusion, and was in and out much of the game. … Receiver James Johnson (ankle) did not play Saturday, and the coach admitted he's been slow to recover to full health. … Linebacker Mason Foster (leg cramps) went out at the 5:34 mark of the third quarter, but returned to start the fourth. He is fine. … Defensive end Kalani Aldrich (knee), who wasn't expected to play, did see time.
• Yes, that was true freshman Erik Kohler getting ahead of himself – and the snap of the ball – on his first play in starting at left guard with 121/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter. He was called for two penalties on the series he started – the first one was a false start.
Colin Porter followed him, rotating in on the next series that started at the 6:50 mark.
• It's official: Keith Price is the backup to Locker (insert yawn here … it was known for weeks). He saw his first action in the final minutes.
"I'm not going to burn Nick Montana's redshirt on three minutes at the end of a ballgame," Sarkisian said.
• Syracuse's first score came on quarterback Ryan Nassib's 28-yard run in the opening quarter.
Nassib – an impressive up-and-coming talent – broke tackles of linebackers Cort Dennison and Foster along the left sideline.
"Trust me, I was mad at myself," Dennison said. "I take full responsibility for it. But I made sure I wasn't going to miss another tackle the rest of the game. And I didn't."
Dennison had a team-high 12 tackles; Foster 10.
• Go-to receiver? Of the 61 snaps Locker played Saturday, I counted Kearse was in on … well, all 61 of them. Not bad for a non-starter the first three games last season (something Sarkisian admits was a miscalculation on the staff's part now).