On Sunday, roughly 24 hours after Washington football earned a 52-3 win over Arkansas State, Sean McGrew adorned an Instagram post with the following caption:
“Heard ya’ll missed me”.
Of course, it’s not as if McGrew actually went anywhere. The 5-foot-7, 180-pound tailback decided to return to UW for a sixth season in 2021, and he suited up for the Huskies’ season-opening losses to Montana and Michigan as well.
But McGrew — who led the Huskies in carries (43), rushing yards (227), yards per carry (5.3) and rushing touchdowns (4) in four games last fall — didn’t play a single down.
In the aftermath, Husky head coach Jimmy Lake said simply that “Rich Newton and Cam Davis have been playing at a high level in practice. And so what you’ve seen is those two guys getting the bulk of the carries.”
By “bulk,” he means “entirety.” Not only did Newton and Davis take every tailback carry in the Montana and Michigan carries, they managed just 116 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry, without a rushing score.
“Obviously, it’s definitely frustrating, always, when you feel like you can be a game-changer and do something that will help the team win the game,” said McGrew, who added he feels the fastest he’s ever been. “But at the end of the day, we’re all a brotherhood. We’ve got to support whoever’s in there and help them out and see if there’s anything you can tell them to help them out on the field and help them do better.
“Obviously it’s tough and it’s frustrating. But at the end of the day we’re a team and I’ll do whatever it takes for this team to win.”
Washington won last Saturday, and McGrew was a reason why. On UW’s second offensive drive, he plunged up the gut for a 3-yard gain on his first carry of his sixth collegiate season — earning a hearty cheer from the Husky Stadium crowd. And two carries later, he called his shot.
“Once we called that (inside zone running) play and lined up I was like, ‘All right, this has got to be a touchdown. It’s going to be a touchdown,’ ” McGrew said. “It just all happened after that.”
Specifically, McGrew took a handoff, busted up the middle and lost linebacker Dane Motley with a disrespectful jump cut. He sprinted across the goal line for a 13-yard score, screaming and fist-pumping as the frustration poured out.
“Honestly, there’s times when I’m playing football where you go into a zone where you’re not really yourself. You’re like a whole different person on the field,” McGrew said. “I feel like that was one of those moments where I had a lot of pent-up emotion and energy and a lot of things inside of me. Getting to the end zone and just letting it out … Honestly, I don’t really know what I said or what I was doing. It was kind of just all happening, and it came out the way it came out.
“As coach Lake would say, you’ve got to reach into that dark place inside of you and bring it out and let it fuel you on the field. I feel like that’s what I was doing.”
McGrew’s alter ego excelled, producing 31 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just six carries. After the game, Lake said, “Sean played excellent, and Sean made a huge difference on special teams. We had him on kickoff and on punt as well. He started on both of those teams. He showed up in practice as one of our best guys, and we tell our team, ‘Hey, tough, physical play is always going to be rewarded.’ ”
But did he deserve a more hearty reward? After all, Newton (10 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD), Davis (seven carries, 27 yards) and Kamari Pleasant (eight carries, 48 yards) each received more carries than McGrew against Arkansas State.
But, placed in front of a microphone on Tuesday, the sixth-year senior didn’t complain.
“We’re a squad,” McGrew said. “We don’t really care who’s playing and who’s not playing. We all support each other. We’re brothers. We want to be the best running-back room in the country. Obviously when all of us are getting the ball it’s really nice and we work well together. But when we’re not, it’s just time to support another brother. Once we get our opportunity, we’ve just got to take advantage of it.”
McGrew might receive another opportunity on Saturday, against a Cal defense that has won two consecutive games against Washington. McGrew admitted that “they’ve honestly had our number the past couple games.” Even so, the Golden Bears rank just 76th nationally in opponent yards per carry (3.99) through a defensively underwhelming 1-2 start.
In a position room that features six scholarship running backs, McGrew knows he might not start on Saturday.
But Husky fans certainly missed him against Montana and Michigan.
And, with a few more jump cuts, Cal’s linebackers might miss him, too.
“I feel like in fall camp we were all practicing really well. It was all pretty even,” McGrew said of the running-back competition. “Those guys (Newton and Davis) had a great fall camp and were working really well in practice. So those are the guys we went out there with (against Montana and Michigan). That’s just how it happened. You can’t complain about it, can’t do anything about it. You just have to come back and go to work.
“That’s been my mindset. We’ve still got a lot of ball left, so I’m not tripping about it.”