By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — The two star receivers from Saturday night’s football game between the University of Washington and Arizona State put cracks in the theory that practice makes perfect.
ASU wideout Chris McGaha didn’t practice all week because of flu-like symptoms, yet he was on the field for the Sun Devils’ final play Saturday night, catching a 50-yard bomb with five seconds left to beat the Huskies 24-17.
Until that moment, the indisputable star of the night was Devin Aguilar, UW’s sophomore receiver who caught seven passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. Aguilar also missed a lot of practice time leading up to the game.
Aguilar, who caught two touchdown passes in his return from a knee injury the previous week, took a blow to the head during last Tuesday’s practice and was unable to finish the session. He sat out Wednesday’s practice and most of Thursday before returning to the field Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
“I was OK,” Aguilar said late Saturday night, shrugging off the midweek injury that cost him so much practice time. “The trainers were just going through procedures. I’m fine.”
Aguilar certainly didn’t look foggy in Saturday night’s game. He caught a 49-yard touchdown pass on the Huskies’ opening possession and continued to be quarterback Jake Locker’s go-to guy all evening.
Aguilar said the early touchdown helped UW gain confidence while playing against the nation’s third-ranked defense.
“Coming in, our coaches were stressing how good their defense was,” he said. “Once we scored, we knew that we could contend with these guys the rest of the game.”
Aguilar finished with career highs in both receptions and yards, asserting himself as Locker’s favorite target for the second week in a row.
“He played great today,” Locker said after the narrow loss Saturday night.
Aguilar’s seven catches matched the total he had through the first five games of the season. Heading into last Saturday’s game against Arizona, Aguilar was coming off a knee injury that cost him two games and he was only a bit player in the Huskies’ passing attack.
But he caught the first two touchdown passes of his career last Saturday, then added a third against ASU. Aguilar certainly has come a long way in a short time.
“I just feel like I needed to contribute the most I can to the team,” he said after Saturday’s game. “I know that I’m a go-to guy and a player that can help the offense. I felt like I could do more as the season goes on and in this game.”
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian is glad Aguilar has become such a force in the offense.
“Devin’s played really, really well,” Sarkisian said Saturday night. “He’s versatile, he’s got great hands. He’s got a great feel for the game, which, in this system, bodes well for you because you understand man-zone concepts and know how to get open.”
Locker’s stock continues to soar in the eyes of NFL scouts, especially after Saturday. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, who had been considered by many to be the top senior quarterback, suffered a second shoulder injury that could affect his projected slot as a top-5 draft pick. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Saturday that Bradford’s injury could propel Locker, a junior, into the top slot among quarterbacks projected to be among the 2010 draft-eligibles. Locker is not expected to reveal his draft intentions until after this season. … While Sarkisian blamed himself for calling a pass play on third-and-1 in the final seconds of Saturday night’s 24-17 loss to ASU, he was being unfairly grilled for that decision after the game. The Sun Devils still had a timeout and could have stopped the clock regardless of the call. Sarkisian called for a pass play that fell incomplete, stopping the clock with 22 seconds left. After getting the ball back, the Sun Devils completed a 50-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to win the game. Sarkisian said the pass play that was called — a deep pass to James Johnson — was something the Huskies had been setting up all night. … Locker, who has been nursing a bruised back in recent weeks, got hit hard late in Saturday’s loss but said afterward that he was “fine.” … The way things are shaping up, all of UW’s first eight opponents — including this Saturday’s foe, Oregon — are in line for bowl bids. The Huskies, at 3-4, need to win at least three of their final five games to be eligible for postseason play.