It was only a 3-yard gain, but the Washington crowd gave a cheer as if it was a huge play, because the person who made the gain was sixth-year senior running back Sean McGrew.
McGrew, who led the team last season in rushing yards (227) and rushing touchdowns (four), elected to return for an extra season. But while the Husky offense struggled mightily in its first two games, McGrew didn’t even get on the field.
When McGrew finally got his first carry of the season, it wasn’t just him who was happy. And a few minutes later, when he capped the next drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, the fans erupted again, even louder, and McGrew let out a big scream.
He was back.
And so was freshman receiver Jalen McMillan. He missed the season opener against Montana with a hand injury and played minimally against Michigan, but was more than ready Saturday in the 52-3 victory over Arkansas State.
McMillan was the offensive star of the first half, catching seven passes for 152 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown reception that gave UW a 28-0 lead.
“Having Jalen McMillan back was a huge boost,” UW coach Jimmy Lake said, “How about that game? He definitely early on allowed us to run the football by doing what he did downfield in the passing game. Even when the ball didn’t go his way, he was loosening things up and helping open huge holes for the running backs.”
McMillan, 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, was a highly recruited receiver from Fresno, Calif., but he had just one reception last season as a true freshman.
He looked ready for a much bigger role this season, finishing Saturday with 10 catches for 175 yards.
Husky fans must be wondering what might have happened had he been healthy against Montana.
“Jalen, he is a special player down the field, catching the ball and running by defenders,” Lake said. “But he’s also very shifty underneath and a hard guy to tackle. I love his competitive nature, you can feel that at practice and he wants to go up and get (the ball). He’s got good size, good length in the air, he can jump and run. It’s what you want your wide receivers to look like.”
McGrew, 5-7 and 185 pounds, also played on special teams Saturday, earning himself a role during the special-teams segment of practice Tuesday.
“He was easily one of the best and toughest guys,” Lake said. “We put him higher on the depth chart and you saw what he did on special teams and what he did on offense.”
McGrew rushed five times for 31 yards and added a second rushing touchdown in the second half. He has 885 yards rushing for his career.
“Sean McGrew has great vision,” said UW quarterback Dylan Morris. “He’s a shorter guy but he breaks tackles and he can make guys miss. He played really well on special teams too. He brings a lot of juice to our team.”