Kamari Pleasant led all Husky running backs in rushing yards (229) and yards per carry (6.9) entering Friday’s game, despite the fact that the sixth-year senior sits a distant third in carries (33).
He received just seven carries for 20 yards in Friday’s 21-16 win over Arizona, while fellow sixth-year senior Sean McGrew led the Huskies with 17 carries for just 43 yards. Redshirt freshman Cameron Davis added six carries for 27 yards and his first career touchdown as well.
When asked this week if Pleasant has earned more consistent carries, UW head coach Jimmy Lake said his intermittent usage may double as the secret to his success.
“It seems like we get these questions all the time,” Lake said. “‘Hey, Rich (Newton) is doing good,’ and then he gets more carries. And then Sean gets more carries. And then Kamari has a good game, and it’s, ‘Why isn’t Kamari playing?’
“We have really good backs. It’s awesome to be able to get a fresh running back in there. Especially in this last game (against UCLA), Sean (McGrew) had a bunch of carries early on, and now he’s starting to wear down a little bit and we get a fresh running back in there and all of a sudden he’s breaking tackles and breaking through for some big gains. A lot of that is because he’s fresh. It’s definitely a positive that we have so many quality backs that we feel comfortable putting back there.”
While that may be true, UW still entered Friday’s game on the road at Arizona ranking 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (111 yards per game) and yards per carry (3.43). And on the other side, UW ranks 10th in rushing defense (191.33 yards allowed per game) and 11th in opponent yards per carry (4.78) as well.
The Huskies have consistently surrendered the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Which Lake and Co. certainly did not expect this offseason.
“I guess I would say that we definitely had a lot of confidence going from spring into training camp,” Lake said. “At this point I think we should be running the football better, and we should be stopping the run better. Especially on the offensive side of the ball, with our offensive line intact and we didn’t lose anybody and we brought a lot of guys back and all of our running backs back, I do think we should be running the ball a lot better.
“On defense, we still had some young guys where this was kind of their turn now to be the starters in our defensive line and outside linebackers. So we’re still working through the maturation process of those guys. We’ll get there. We will get there.”
Perhaps by handing the ball to Pleasant, the Huskies would get there faster.
Cook taken to hospital, flies home with team
UW junior safety Alex Cook suffered a significant injury late in the first quarter Friday, and the Sacramento, California, native was carted off the field on a back board. A UW spokesperson confirmed Cook was conscious and had feeling in his arms and legs, and after being transported to a local hospital he was discharged and allowed to fly home with the Huskies.
“So that’s all good news,” Lake said after Friday’s game. “Still some tests to be run, but I think that’s the most positive news that we could receive, with him being able to come back with us.”
The Huskies suffered another serious injury inside Arizona Stadium two years ago, when linebacker M.J. Tafisi sustained a significant stinger and was carted off the field as well.
A 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior, Cook has played in 35 career games and started the last six games this season. The converted UW wide receiver has recorded 42 tackles in his Husky career.
Arizona’s most dynamic offensive weapon is redshirt junior wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III, who leads the Wildcats in catches (48) and receiving yards (445).
On Wednesday, UW defensive backs coach Will Harris called Berryhill “a dynamic player. They’ll line him up all over the field. I think one thing that makes him special is he’s a gadget guy. And not only that, he can also run really good, crisp routes. So I’m excited for our guys. It’s going to be a good challenge. I’m excited about this one. That’s their heartbeat right there.”
Berryhill caught six passes for 26 yards, and added a 34-yard run, in Friday’s defeat.
Likewise, UW’s defensive heartbeat remains its secondary — and the Huskies rank third nationally in opponent yards per pass attempt (5.4), fourth in passing defense (153.2 yards allowed per game) and ninth in opponent pass efficiency rating (106.08).
Which, according to Harris, hasn’t happened by accident.
“It’s just about the growth and understanding what it takes,” he said. “Because we always talk about, we don’t want to be average. We don’t want to be an average DB group. We want to be the best DB group in the country — and not just in the country, I’m talking about the NFL and college football as well. So in order for us to do that, we’ve got a standard.
“Like we say all the time, standards over feelings. We have a standard in our room, and we’re either going to be held up to those standards or we’re not, and then you’re not going to be playing. But every guy in our room is literally taking that step necessary to make sure we’re upholding those standards.”
Cato returns to the sideline
UW tight ends coach Derham Cato was back to work last week after being injured and transported to a local hospital during the Huskies’ 27-24 loss at Oregon State on Oct. 2. On Tuesday, Cato said “I was watching a certain part of the punt protection that I’m responsible for and one of our gunners got jammed out of bounds and just ran into me. I kind of got blindsided. I saw him at the last second and got hit. It is what it is.”
The second-year Husky tight ends coach — who played collegiately at Dartmouth — added: “It was more embarrassing than anything, honestly. I thought I was past that (injury) stuff. … The old age hits you and the frickin’ reaction time goes down, for sure.”
- Several key UW contributors — including left tackle Jaxson Kirkland, inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, defensive tackle Sam “Taki” Taimani, safety Cameron Williams and running back Richard Newton — did not travel to Tucson, Arizona, for Friday’s game. A UW spokesperson confirmed all absences were due to injuries, not COVID protocol or disciplinary measures. In their places, redshirt freshman Troy Fautanu made his first career start at left tackle, and redshirt freshman Daniel Heimuli made his second start at inside linebacker. Lake said he will provide an update on the injured players on Monday.
- When asked if UW’s safeties need to play closer to the line of scrimmage to help contain the run, Harris said: “Oh, yeah. We’re about to.” That’s after UCLA rushed for 237 rushing yards and 5.9 yards per carry in a 24-17 win last week. “You get what you emphasize, and this week it’s about stopping the run,” Harris added. “I believe that every week, but this week it’s for sure about that. It’s about stopping the run and making these guys pass the ball. That’s our thing, coming up with a better scheme to make sure we stop the run, and here we go. Now it’s time to put the ball in the air.”