Bowl Season



Big 12 vs. Pac-10 San Diego
Qualcomm Stadium
Dec. 30
10 p.m.

John Berkowitz, of , a site devoted to Washington Husky athletics answered some questions about this year's Washington team.

BS: Things looked very bleak at 3-6 just 3 weeks ago and it looked like Jake Locker's career would end with no bowl appearances. However, the Huskies won their last 3 to qualify. What changed during those last three games?

 John Berkowitz: Washington lost three straight to highly ranked opponents including Stanford and Oregon who will be playing in BCS bowl games. What changed over the last three games was the schedule lightened up considerably.

Cal and UCLA had QB problems and WSU can’t stop anyone on defense so Washington took advantage of that. The defense has stepped it up in the last quarter of the season. They still won’t strike fear into the heart of a Nebraska but they are doing a better job against the run which was key in those three victories.

BS:The offense was decent, but not great. Do you think the fact that Locker ran less this year hurt the offense? Also, please comment on the offense including some personnel.

John Berkowitz: Locker has been suffering from various assorted injuries including a broken rib for the majority of the season. His lack of mobility exposes an offensive line that isn’t very good. The injury also hurt his ability to pass so the load has been shared with TB Chris Polk. Polk went over a thousand yards rushing for the second consecutive season. He is a power runner who is tough to bring down. Even when there isn’t a hole there which is often he is able to carry people with him down the field for a positive gain.

BS:The defense struggled mightily this year. What was the problem and please comment on some players who stood out this year.

 John Berkowitz:Youth, depth, talent, lack of speed and experience. Coach Holt is rebuilding this defense and it is going to take some time. We saw improvement throughout the season but more recruiting needs to get done to keep raising the level of talent on the roster. The line backing unit led by two seniors and a junior was a bright spot this season. Sr. WLB Mason Foster is probably the most productive LB in the country. He regularly turns in 14 tackle games. Sr Vic Aiyewa who moved to SLB from SS had a good year and is leading the conference in tackles for loss. Jr. CB Quinton Richardson may have made the most improvement of any Husky defender. He is has been a lockdown corner over the last quarter of the season. Jr. DT Alameda Ta’amu has been solid in the middle and his help in stopping the run was a huge factor in the last three wins.

BS:If you had to choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

John Berkowitz: I think that guy would be Jake Locker who has underperformed because of injuries all season. He will be 100% healthy and playing loose in this game. I am pretty sure he wants to redemption for his 4-20 passing performance against Nebraska in a 56-21 loss earlier this season. That game killed his Heisman hopes but this one can get him back into being one of the top ten picks in the NFL draft.

Thanks a lot John. Check him out at

Jon Sevenker, of was nice enough to answer some questions about the Cornhuskers.

BS: Nebraska beat 56-21 in a beatdown early in the season. How will the Cornhuskers be able to find motivation to play against the 6-6 Huskies again?
Jon Sevenker: A win over Washington in the Holiday Bowl would give the Huskers their 11th win of the season and 30th win in the last three years.  Nebraska may not be "back" in terms of conference and national titles just yet, but averaging 10 wins a season in each of Bo Pelini's first three years shows they're getting close.  The senior class endured the end of the Bill Callahan era when the program was at its lowest point in nearly 50 years.  They've been through a lot and would like nothing more than to lead Nebraska to its first 11-win season since 2001.
BS: The offense has been led by freshman QB Taylor Martinez. However, he struggled later in the year and has had problems with head coach Bo Pelini. Will he play and who are the other top players on the offense?
Jon Sevenker: When Taylor Martinez is completely healthy he's a pretty dynamic quarterback.  Unfortunately for Husker fans, he hasn't been 100% since the Missouri game when he sprained his ankle late in the first half.  Through the first five games of 2010, Martinez rushed for 12 touchdowns and threw for three.  Over the remaining seven regular season games, Taylor threw for six TD's (five coming against Oklahoma State) but failed to score a single rushing touchdown.  Granted he sat out two of these games (Iowa State and Colorado) and wasn't near healthy in the Kansas or Texas A&M games.  Even in the Big 12 title game, Martinez wasn't the same player he was early in the season.  Frankly, without the breakaway speed and the running threat, Taylor has been a liability for the Huskers on offense.  He puts the ball on the turf too often and his decision-making can be called into question.  In the Big 12 title game, Martinez took too many sacks, fumbled multiple times and threw an interception in the endzone.  Much of this is due to Taylor being a redshirt freshman and hopefully he'll learn from his mistakes.  If Taylor is healthy (i.e. able to cut and pull away from defenders) this could be a long day for the Huskies.  Without the Martinez running threat, NU's offense loses a lot of firepower. 
Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu, Jr. split the duties at running back, with Burkhead seeing a lot of action in the Wildcat offense.  Rex played quarterback in high school for one season and can throw the ball.  Many Husker fans were disappointed we didn't see more of the Wildcat down the stretch and especially in the Big 12 Championship.  Helu has rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second year in a row and should end the 2010 season around 1,300.  Roy has good breakaway speed and is capable of big plays.  During the Huskers' game against Washington in September, Helu rushed for 110 yards on 10 carries and had two touchdowns.  Expect to see a lot of Burkhead and Helu on Thursday.
The Huskers other big play threat on offense is Niles Paul, who will be returning to action from a foot injury after sitting out the Colorado and Oklahoma games.  Paul gives the Huskers their only true deep threat at the receiver position and will most likely return kickoffs again as well. 
BS: The defense is 8th in the country giving up only 17 points a game. Who are the key players on the unit and what will be the keys to stopping the improving Washington offense?
Jon Sevenker: Eric Hagg doesn't get as much publicity as Prince Amukamara or Jared Crick, but Hagg was named the defensive MVP by his mates at the team awards banquet.  Hagg plays what the Pelinis call the Peso back, basically a hybrid linebacker/defensive back or what more commonly is referred to as the nickel back.  The aforementioned Amukamara will likely be a 1st round pick in the upcoming NFL draft at the cornerback position and assuming Crick comes back for his senior season, he's projected to be a top round pick in 2012.  DeJon Gomes is another Husker defensive back with big play ability.  The term ballhawk comes to mind with Gomes.  He has come up with some big plays in key moments of games over the last couple of seasons and will most likely be playing on Sundays next year.
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?
Jon Sevenker: Last year it was Niles Paul and Rex Burkhead who stepped up in a big way for the Huskers.  If Taylor Martinez is 100% healthy, he could be the guy.  If he's not, I think Helu and Burkhead will pick up the slack.  NU ran for 383 yards against the Huskies the first time they played in 2010 and I would expect another run-heavy offensive gameplan.  For UW to stay in the game, they'll have to find a way to limit the Huskers' ground game and force Martinez to pass.  My prediction: Nebraska 35 - Washington 17.

Thanks a lot to Jon Sevenker. Check him out at

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