Washington won last weekend in more ways than one.
Not only did UW produce a convincing 45-20 victory over Kent State in coach Kalen DeBoer’s debut, but it appears several Huskies evaded serious injury as well. Most notably, UC Davis cornerback Jordan Perryman — who left in the third quarter with what looked like a significant left leg injury and was replaced by safety Julius Irvin — may play against Portland State on Saturday afternoon.
“He’s more day to day,” UW co-defensive coordinator William Inge said Monday. “He has an upper leg injury. We’re going to be planning for him to be all right.”
DeBoer also added that “we are hoping that he plays. It’s definitely not anything that seems to be long term.”
Likewise, Inge said junior defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa— who left briefly in the second half — suffered little more than a “big cramp.” And when he played, the 6-foot-1, 307-pounder also impressed.
“Seeing Tuli play and dominate the line of scrimmage at the point of attack, that’s something we know he’s capable of doing play in and play out,” Inge said of Letuligasenoa, who compiled two tackles, a pass breakup and 0.5 tackles for loss in the win. “So seeing him be able to do that, we were definitely happy with him upfront.”
On the other side of the line, sixth-year senior left tackle Jaxson Kirkland — who was not available against Kent State, as a condition of his NCAA reinstatement — may play Saturday as he works back from an unspecified injury. He and sophomore Troy Fautanu, who started in Kirkland’s stead last Saturday, were listed as co-starters on Monday’s depth chart.
“He’s close,” offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said of the two-time first-team All-Pac-12 pick. “We’re going to be pushing hard to get him in the game this week, so we’re still assessing that. But he’s looking like a guy that would be ready to play this week. So that’s been a day-to-day thing literally every day.
“I know he feels really good right now. We just want to make sure he’s 100% ready to get out there and play. But we’re moving forward that he’s going to be part of the game plan.”
Fifth-year junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed 67% of his passes and threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns, without a turnover, in an undeniably dazzling UW debut.
Unsurprisingly, his postgame grade matched his production.
“ (He graded) really high, honestly,” Grubb said. “Not a surprise for those (quarterbacks) in the room, but I’m not an easy grader. I’m very critical to help them, to make sure they’re right on their details. But the thing that stood out the most right after the game, besides Mike’s big throws and things like that, it never felt like the ball was really in jeopardy. He was putting it in the right places. Even when reads were difficult and even with a couple screens, he was putting the ball in a good spot where we weren’t in jeopardy of turning it over.
“That was one of the things I was most proud of Mike for, just taking care of the ball and making good decisions.”
Hampton’s NFL ceiling
Junior Dominique Hampton and sophomore Kamren Fabiculanan split the duties at the hybrid nickel linebacker “husky” spot last weekend, contributing a combined four tackles and a pass breakup.
But according to Inge, their contributions transcended the stat sheet.
“There were a couple things we always have to clean up, but from a consistency standpoint, very, very, very consistent,” he said. “The individuals they were on did not have a chance to catch a lot of passes. So they were able to cover up some of the receivers they were going against.
“When you have the ability to use Dom or Kam, they’re two of the smarter players on our defense. So they can get a lot of the things done that we need to get done.”
For Hampton, that’s partially thanks to NFL athleticism packed into a 6-foot-3, 221-pound frame.
But the fifth-year junior has not reached the finish line.
“He’s bigger than some of the linebackers, and one of the faster guys on the football field,” Inge said. “He is one of your prototypical players that will have a chance to play at the next level, just because of his body type, his work ethic and his skills.
“The one thing we just have to do with him is focus on some of the small little minute details on each play, each given moment, to allow him from having a tipped pass and turning it into an interception, or turning a catch and tackle into a tipped pass. Some of that comes with the preparation process, and I think he’s really been embracing that thus far.”
- DeBoer was asked his opinion of the recently approved 12-team College Football Playoff, which includes the six highest ranked conference champions and six at-large bids, and will be implemented no later than 2026. “It’s great,” said DeBoer, who played and coached in numerous playoff games at NAIA Sioux Falls. “You get a chance to get in the playoffs, and anything can happen. I love the ‘win or go home’ kind of games. I’m just used to that over so many years in my career. That’s when it gets really fun. It gets special. You prepare all year long for those moments, rather than just a bowl game you’re going to where if you win so many games you’re in it. There’s something special to that. I think it’s going to be cool for college football. It gives more teams an opportunity, and obviously we’re looking forward to being a part of that.”
- Right tackle Roger Rosengarten — a 6-6, 303-pound redshirt freshman — was named Washington’s lineman of the week in his first career start. “Really, Roger’s issue in fall camp was the big mistakes. He tried to be too flashy on some things,” Grubb said. “I thought on Saturday he just did his job, honestly. It wasn’t anything flashy or exceptional, other than he didn’t give up any sacks or pressures. When we were running the ball to his side he was proficient. So I thought he did a good job just doing his job and being in the right place, no mental breakups. He did a good job.”
- Tight end Jack Westover’s hurdle attempt that capped a 19-yard gain against Kent State was an undeniably athletic, acrobatic aerial maneuver. But consider Grubb unimpressed. “I thought he had really bad ball security on that. That kind of sucked,” he said with a smile. “But Westy was just trying to make a play, and I truly would like to see the ball tighter to his body. But it didn’t surprise anybody. Jack’s a super athletic kid.”
- UW junior defensive lineman Ulumoo Ale played sparingly against Kent State and knocked down a pass, weeks after suffering a minor left leg injury in preseason practice. “He’s getting back up to the full speed mode,” Inge said. “So getting him caught back up to where he was two weeks ago, that’s just more time and him enduring the process. The one thing that we like is he’s been in watching film. He’s been getting with (defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield) and doing the things he needs to do to make sure he can be ready.”