Locker scores 2 TDs as Huskies speed past Orange
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Jake Locker, the gem of Washington's recruiting class two years ago, sparkled in his college debut.
Locker, a redshirt freshman, ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns and completed 14 of 19 passes for 142 yards, and Louis Rankin rushed for a career-high 147 yards and three scores to lead Washington past Syracuse 42-12 on Friday night.
"The total experience was awesome," said Locker, who did not commit a turnover before departing after the third quarter in favor of senior Carl Bonnell. "But it was a total team effort. The offensive line took care of us. They protected me and opened up holes. That made our jobs a lot easier. It was a good start."
It was the first Friday night college game in the Carrier Dome since it opened in 1980, and it featured teams trying to resurrect winning traditions after falling on hard times. One game into the new season, Washington's Tyrone Willingham, now 8-16 as he starts his third season, had the edge over Syracuse's Greg Robinson, who dropped to 5-19 at the start of his third season with the Orange.
"It's a hard loss, there's no doubt about it," Greg Robinson said. "Our expectations were higher than that, and I think we can play better than that. But it is what it is. It's really a matter of how do we respond from this point."
After a slow start, Locker guided the Huskies to consecutive scores on a pair of 80-yard drives to put Washington up 14-6 at halftime. The Huskies then scored twice to start the third quarter and take command.
Rankin bolted around the left side and raced 47 yards untouched past the beleaguered Orange defense for his second touchdown of the game.
After Syracuse failed to register a first down, Locker hit Marcel Reece for 18 yards over the middle and scrambled for another 8 before D'Andre Goodman gained 31 yards on a reverse. Locker scored on an 8-yard run up the middle on the next play for a 28-6 lead.
"He seemed more calm in the game than he did in practice," Rankin said of Locker. "Jake brought a lot of attention to him, and that opened up the run a lot. As long as he stays healthy, we'll be all right."
Rankin scored for the final time on a 20-yard run late in the third on only his 17th carry of the game. That sent the Orange faithful streaming for the exits and completed a remarkable flurry -- five touchdowns and 380 yards gained on five straight possessions.
"I don't where to point my fingers, but it definitely is a shock," Syracuse defensive end Jameel McClain said. "I don't think anybody on the team seen this coming. From our standpoint, we can't let this happen again. It's something you have to learn from. There's got to be a lesson learned. We've got to grow off this, mature off this, get better off this, but it's definitely a shock."
It's difficult to win when you can't run, and the Orange suffered mightily. Syracuse figured to be limited at tailback. Delone Carter, the Orange's leading rusher in 2006, is out for the season with a dislocated hip, and last year's starter, Curtis Brinkley, wasn't quite back to full strength after offseason surgery on both knees.
It showed. Syracuse gained just 2 yards rushing on 13 carries in the first half and finished with 8 yards on 29 carries while the Huskies amassed 302, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Brinkley, who gained 571 yards last fall and averaged 4.1 yards per carry, had 4 yards on six carries.
"It's shocking that we lost. We came out knowing that we would win the game, and we lost pretty bad," said Brinkley, who did catch four passes for 63 yards. "At the same time, I've got to let it go and move on."
With McClain, the Big East's leader in sacks last year with 9.5, the Syracuse defensive line was expected to make it difficult for Locker. But he got rid of the ball quickly and was under little pressure -- Syracuse did not register a sack -- settled down after beginning the game with two three-and-outs, and made the Huskies' offense finally start to click in the second quarter.
"We settled down after their first drive," Washington linebacker Dan Howell said. "In the second half, we could see they were losing their drive."
In a game featuring two quarterbacks who had never started in college, Locker easily outperformed Andrew Robinson, who finished 20-for-32 for 199 yards but was sacked seven times, losing 17 yards on 13 carries.
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