The Huskies kept things pretty vanilla for the few thousand fans who showed up for UW's one public practice of the spring. But Chris Petersen manufactured some drama at the end.
A spring finale that otherwise lacked much intrigue ended in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon.
On the final snap of the Huskies’ “live” scrimmage, sophomore running back Sean McGrew was stopped just shy of the goal line on a fourth-and-1 play, giving the UW defense a 37-33 come-from-behind win in the spring preview scrimmage before a few thousand fans at Husky Stadium.
UW coach Chris Petersen helped manufacture the late drama when he spotted the ball at the defense’s 10-yard line and gave the No. 3 offense — led by true freshman Colson Yankoff on this final series — four plays to score.
McGrew gained 4 yards on his third-down run to the 1-yard line. He took the fourth-down handoff from Yankoff and tried to surge through a wall of defenders. He appeared to be very, very close to the goal line, but the sideline official ruled him just short, prompting players on the defense’s sideline to spill onto the field in celebration.
It was good fun at the end, anyway. The majority of the public workout, as has become the norm in Petersen’s tenure at UW, was dedicated to basic fundamental drills — blocking, tackling, throwing.
For their one public practice in the spring, the Huskies prefer to keep things vanilla in part because they don’t want an opponent — in this case, Auburn for the Sept. 1 opener in Atlanta — to glean anything useful from the Pac-12 Network broadcast.
“We’re very, very guarded,” UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “This opponent we’re about to play here coming up, we’ve never faced them since we’ve been here, so we wouldn’t want to give them anything. For us to go out there and have a full-on spring game and show them all of our plays and our schemes doesn’t do us any service whatsoever.”
Petersen on Friday also said player safety is a big consideration in not having a traditional spring game.
“It’s our job as coaches to be as smart as we can to get to the fall,” he said. “… We could get a lot more people (to attend) if we had a full-blown spring scrimmage game. We just don’t have the numbers (on the roster). I’m just saying to all Dawg fans: Hey, we’d love to see you out there (Saturday), but we need you in the fall. That’s when it matters to me and this team and this program. We get 72,000 regardless of who we’re playing — that is game-changing. Not necessarily spring ball.”
Quarterbacks Jake Browning and Jake Haener had helped the offense take a commanding lead midway through the scrimmage Saturday.
Browning played in six series with the No. 1 offense, completing 12-of-18 passes for 106 yards. He was sacked twice and avoided several others, rushing for a net-gain of 30 yards on seven carries.
Salvon Ahmed had one of the best runs of the day, a 15-yard touchdown run in which he broke at least three tackles. On that 69-yard drive, Browning was 4-for-4 had a key fourth-down run to extend the drive.
Haener was 9-for-15 for 139 yards and threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Max Richmond.
Sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant had five catches for 50 yards, and redshirt freshman tight end Cade Otton had five catches for 38 yards.
Sophomore receiver Jordan Chin didn’t have any counted receptions during the scrimmage portion of practice, but he did haul in a 25-yard TD pass from Haener in the first team competition period early in practice and later had a 46-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown catch from Browning during a 7-on-7 period.
The two freshmen quarterbacks, Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon, got just two series each with a mix of the No. 2 and No. 3 offense. Sirmon was 3-for-6 passing for a net gain of 1 yard. He was sacked once and he threw the lone interception of the scrimmage when, under pressure from Amandre Williams, he threw high of his receiver, leading to an easy pick for safety Isaiah Gilchrist.
Yankoff was 1-for-2 for 2 yards, and he had two carries for 15 yards.
Jacob Eason got only one series of action, completing 1-of-2 throws. He was sacked one.
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Sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Bowman continued his impressive spring with two sacks during the scrimmage and a third tackle for loss. Jared Pulu, Jason Scrempos and Camilo Eifler were each credited with one sack.
Gilchrist was credited with a team-high seven tackles.
Sophomore cornerback Elijah Molden had an interception during a 7-on-7 drill. That is notable because it broke a three-way tie (with Keith Taylor and Myles Bryant) for the spring lead in interceptions, thus giving Molden the highly coveted “Best Hands” trophy among the defensive backs.
Star running back Myles Gaskin took part in practice drills early but did not play in the scrimmage as coaches look to keep him fresh for the fall.
Among the former UW players on hand were Troy Williams, John Ross, Shaq Thompson, Budda Baker, Zeke Turner, Vita Vea, Kevin King, Azeem Victor, Keishawn Bierria, Brandon Beaver and DiAndre Campbell.
Lake said it “means the world” to see the former players back at Husky Stadium.
“That’s what this whole thing is about,” he said. “We build relationships with these guys and go through trials and tribulations with football and life, and it’s just so awesome who are successful and they want to come back and support the program. Hopefully we’ve got a few more here we can pump out to the NFL in the next few years and hopefully all those guys come back again. It’s good to see their faces for sure.”