The Washington Huskies could still play a nonconference game in 2020.
The Pac-12 Conference announced Thursday that, should a presently scheduled game be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, programs will have the flexibility to schedule a nonconference opponent on short notice.
A Pac-12 release stated that the following criteria must be completed for a non-conference makeup game to be scheduled:
- All Pac-12 testing and related protocols must be adhered to by the nonconference opponent
- The nonconference game will be a home game for the Pac-12 team, and be broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner
- If a Pac-12 opponent becomes available by Thursday in that given week, the conference game must be played in lieu of any nonconference game
“I think it’s the right move,” UW coach Jimmy Lake told local media on Thursday morning. “For me, I would definitely want it to be a Pac-12 opponent first if there was a cancellation for our game and another Pac-12 cancellation. I would want the two Pac-12 teams that are able to play to play first. That would be my first option.
“But let’s say this week, if for whatever reason our game is not happening and everybody else in the Pac-12 is booked up, then I think it’s good. We’ve practiced and prepared so much that we want to be able to play a game and get that game in the books. It will be difficult to try to travel or try to get a team here, but we’ll work through those issues. And at the end of the day, let’s let these young men get out there and play.”
Of course, like Lake said, there would still be logistical challenges associated with scheduling an impromptu non-conference opponent. The Huskies’ first-year head coach estimated that the makeup game would have to be scheduled by Wednesday to make a Saturday kickoff feasible.
“Both teams are on even playing fields, because there’s no game planning whatsoever. We’re basically just going in there blind,” he said. “What it really comes down to is travel. I know for us, we’re like a 140-160 travel party — when you start putting the trainers in there, our equipment people, our coaches, our staff, our players. Maybe you were supposed to host and now you’ve got to get on a plane somewhere and try to find a hotel, try to find meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner and another breakfast the next day — and try to find six buses. We have to have more buses now because of the pandemic.
“There are all these logistical things that are just nightmares: how to get the pads there. It’s a freight truck that usually goes three days before we travel. So it really comes down to logistics.”
Jermaine Kearse comes home
UW announced Monday that former Huskies and Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse joined the staff as a program assistant.
“(It’s a) huge pickup for the Dawgs,” Lake said. “Obviously an extraordinary player but an even more extraordinary person. This is a man that we would want all of our sons to be like. This has been a long recruiting process, and we finally got him to sign on the dotted line, and we’re excited for him to be here.”
Lake added that Kearse will operate in a “really wide-ranging role” that includes film study of opponents and recruits, advisory work with the coaching staff and involvement in recruiting future Huskies as well.
“He’s going to be a great person to be around — for our recruits to get to know and our players to get to know, but also our coaching staff,” Lake said. “I could just go on and on about Jermaine. I’m so excited that he’s here and he’s already added a ton of value.”
McDuffie makes his mark
Trent McDuffie was one of the best true freshmen in the country last season.
But UW football fans hadn’t seen anything yet.
Last Saturday, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore cornerback assumed the Huskies’ starting punt return duties as well — ripping off a 45-yard return with 6:08 left in the second quarter.
“What an exciting part of the game that was,” Lake said last week. “He’s just so natural, so explosive. We saw him in practice making guys miss and causing our scout-team issues. So we knew it was going to happen in a game. Teams here moving forward are definitely going to have to make sure they don’t outkick their coverage, and they’re going to have to know where 22 is and make sure they’ve got guys that can tackle him.
“He’s one of our fastest players on our team. He’s sure handed. I’m extremely excited about what Trent is going to do in our return game.”
Westover’s second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) carries
Before Saturday’s game against Oregon State, UW redshirt sophomore tight end/H-back Jack Westover said he had received one career carry — a 15-yard gain against a team from Bainbridge Island all the way back in the eighth grade.
And yet, the 6-3, 245-pounder rushed three times for 16 yards last Saturday
“In practice we repped it and I had a lot of confidence in it,” Westover said. “On the field you’re just reacting to the calls, so there’s a not a lot of time to think. But I was just ready for it and reacted to the call and did what I had to do.”
The former high-school basketball player at Mount Si High School earned a scholarship this offseason.
And Lake wasted little time in putting Westover to work.
“For Westy, if he had one carry in eighth grade or whatever it is, in training camp I think he might have had 150 carries,” Lake said. “We definitely grooved that call and practiced it over and over and over. And it worked a lot, and that was the reason why we utilized that play.
“But I’ll tell you what: I had a friend text me and say, ‘Hey coach, your first third-down conversion was a fullback dive. You’ve got to be proud of that.’ And I am very proud of that. That was awesome. I’ll make sure I have that clip pulled out and ready to show the first third-down conversion of our season this year.”
Cooper McDonald earns a role
UW football fans expected to see one true freshman outside linebacker — former five-star recruit Sav’ell Smalls — contribute last Saturday.
But, with expected starter Laiatu Latu missing the game with an apparent injury, Haslet, Texas, native Cooper McDonald earned a role as well.
The 6-3, 235-pound Northwest High School alum made one tackle against Oregon State — and Lake says it won’t be the last you’ll see of him, either.
“He’s going to continue to play more because he makes plays in practice,” Lake said of McDonald, who signed with UW as an inside linebacker but has shifted outside. “Two of our preseason games that we had, he would get a sack, make a play, a tackle for loss, and I would look in his eyes, and you just saw this confidence. It wasn’t like he was surprised he made the play. It was like he knew he was going to make the play.
“And when guys show up like that on tape, they deserve to get some playing time. That’s why you saw Cooper play, and you’ll continue to see him play.”