SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Louis Rankin ran for a career-high 147 yards and three touchdowns, and Jake Locker scored twice and didn't commit a turnover in an impressive debut to help Washington beat Syracuse 42-12 on Friday night.
In a game featuring two quarterbacks who had never started in college, Locker easily outperformed Andrew Robinson.
Locker, the gem of Washington's 2005 recruiting class who was given the No. 1 job at the start of spring practice and held off a strong challenge from senior Carl Bonnell, ran for 83 yards on 10 carries and was 14-for-19 passing for 142 yards before being replaced by Bonnell in the fourth quarter.
Robinson finished 20-for-32 for 199 yards but was sacked seven times, losing 17 yards on 13 carries.
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.
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. Washington 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.
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.
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. Brinkley, who gained 571 yards last fall and averaged 4.1 yards per carry, had 4 yards on six carries.
With end Jameel 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.
Locker went to Rankin repeatedly on Washington's third possession of the game to key the Huskies' first scoring drive. Rankin, a senior and the only Washington tailback with college experience, took advantage of some sloppy tackling by the Orange to reverse field and gain 17 yards to move the ball to midfield.
After catching a 6-yard screen pass, Rankin ran around the left side for another 15 yards, caught another pass from Locker for 4 yards, and scored on a 13-yard run up the middle to give the Huskies a 7-3 lead early in the second.
Then it was Locker's turn to excel. He completed a 12-yard pass to Reece and gained 56 yards rushing, finishing another 80-yard march with a 1-yard run to put Washington up 14-3 with 2:48 left in the half.
The Orange nearly scored their first touchdown of the season in the final minute. Andrew Robinson appeared to complete a 24-yard scoring pass to Taj Smith, but Washington free safety Nate Williams knocked the ball out of Smith's hands in the end zone and Syracuse had to settle for Patrick Shadle's second 42-yard field goal of the game.
Syracuse finally scored when Robinson hit Mike Williams on a 10-yard slant over the middle with 6:59 left, but Shadle, who was perfect last season on extra points, botched this one.
The Huskies completed the rout on Brandon Johnson's 1-yard run with 73 seconds left.