It looked so simple.
Deontae Cooper took a handoff at the Idaho State 4, darting right before spotting an opening in the middle and cutting back to the left where he ran practically untouched into the end zone as Bengals defenders tumbled around him like pins at a bowling alley.
“I (saw) the lane, I saw the Washington symbol on the ground and I said I’m getting there,” he said. “Four yards out, I said I’m getting this.”
Cooper’s touchdown capped the scoring in No. 17 Washington’s 56-0 win over overmatched Idaho State.
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More importantly, it marked a significant milestone in a college football career delayed by three knee surgeries in the previous three years.
Before this season, Cooper was stuck in neutral.
“Just waiting and waiting for my time,” he said. “I know that hard work pays off. I know what I can be and I know what I can do.
“ I knew this day would happen.”
Before Saturday, Cooper had just six carries for 8 yards.
The easy victory meant extended minutes for backups like freshman receiver John Ross, redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles and Cooper.
“Every guy who was eligible to play, played in the game,” coach Steve Sarkisian said. “For a football team, those moments are really cool. So many guys got first things today.”
After a shaky first half for Ross that included a fumbled punt return (recovered by UW), the 5-foot-11 speedster took a short pass on the sideline and raced 57 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter.
Along the way, Ross juked a defender and outraced two others.
“That’s what he does,” said Miles, who threw the TD pass. “He can score every time he touches the ball. He’s got that spark.”
The same might be said about Miles.
He replaced Keith Price late in the second quarter when Washington led 42-0 and played more than he had at any other time in his college career.
“It felt good,” Miles said. “I definitely felt like some throws I wanted back and I need to complete. It feels great to get in.”
Miles finished with 97 yards on 5-for-7 passing, and he dazzled fans running the read option.
On the final play in the third quarter, the 6-4, 213-pounder dashed around the defensive end and raced 61 yards down the left sideline before being pushed out at the Idaho State 4.
“That shows how explosive our offense is,” said Cooper, who scored on the next play. “We got Cyler who can run that play and just weapons all over the field.”
Miles also had gains of 15 and 13 yards on the read option and led Washington with 89 yards on four carries.
In his UW debut, defensive tackle Josh Banks registered a sack on his first play while redshirt freshman defensive back Cleveland Wallace collected his first interception.
“When everybody can play, that’s a good feeling,” Cooper said. “It means that the team is executing as a whole. We had a lot of things to celebrate today.”
But it was Cooper who drew the biggest applause after his touchdown.
Most of the 67,093 fans had departed, but Husky Stadium roared and the sideline exploded when he reached the end zone for the first time in his much-maligned career.
“It was an emotional moment,” Price said.
It was Cooper’s 14th and final carry for the day. He ran for 59 yards, which was the most he has had in a game since he starred at Citrus Hill High in Perris, Calif. , in 2009.
“That’s good for me to get hit,” he said. “Get my legs back and feeling that. It’s been a long time. That’s great to do that again.”
Cooper, a junior, doesn’t want Saturday’s performance to be the highlight of his career.
“I feel like I can be more explosive,” he said. “I want more. That’s going to come by going to work tomorrow and accepting the process and continuing to get better.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org