SEATTLE _ On the first play from scrimmage in Saturday’s game, University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker threw a pass to the right flat, putting the ball squarely in the chest of wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.
Kearse dropped the ball.
Minutes later, Locker scrambled to the left and then spotted Kearse slipping into a seam in the defensive secondary. The pass was again on target.
Again Kearse dropped the ball.
Washington’s best receiver in 2009 was off to one of his worst starts of the season.
And at that point, Kearse said, “I was just trying to figure out a way to get out of my slump. … I was probably not focused enough at the beginning. But then I got refocused, and I went out there and made the best of my opportunities.”
Indeed he did. Kearse would finish with four receptions, tying for the team lead, and had a team-best 94 receiving yards with a touchdown in a 30-0 Apple Cup victory over Washington State at Husky Stadium.
After his two drops, Kearse was met on the sideline by UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. Rather than a tongue-lashing, the coach offered words of support and encouragement.
Said Sarkisian, “I kind of pulled him aside after a little bit of a rough start and said, ‘Hey, man, we’re not going to get away from you. So figure it out, get through it. You’re going to have more opportunities.’ And he bounced right back and had one really nice drive.”
That drive came early in the second quarter. Beginning a possession from their own 15-yard line, the Huskies needed just three plays to travel 85 yards. After Locker carried for 11 yards, he found Kearse on slant route for a leaping catch and a 24-yard gain to midfield.
On the next play, Locker passed deep down the middle of the field to Kearse, who gathered the ball inside the WSU 5 and spilled into the end zone. The 50-yard scoring play was Kearse’s seventh TD reception of the season and his fifth in the last three games.
With one game to play, Kearse is having a very productive season. He not only leads the Huskies in touchdowns, he is tops in receptions (43) and receiving yards (719). With 44 points (he has a two-point PAT), Kearse is second only to place-kicker Erik Folk, who has 83.
“(Kearse) is a great football player and he’s made great plays through the course of the year,” Locker said.