By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — In the days leading up to his first Apple Cup appearance, University of Washington freshman Kasen Williams said he was eager to add his name to the annual rivalry’s lore.
And then he went out and did it.
The freshman receiver from Sammamish was the star of the first half of the Huskies’ 38-21 win over rival Washington State on Saturday, scoring a pair of touchdowns while adding the most athletic play of the night.
“I just wanted to go out there and do what I needed to do for my team,” he said after making all five of his receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns in the first half Saturday. “I felt like we did that this week.”
While Williams had UW’s first two offensive touchdowns, his most incredible play may have come on an 18-yard reception that put the Huskies at the WSU 21-yard line late in the second quarter.
Williams caught a short Keith Price pass underneath the Cougars’ coverage, turned upfield and made a splay-legged hurdle over WSU defender Nolan Washington to get the first down and more. One play later, Price hit Williams in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in the first half.
“As soon as I turned my head around, I saw that it was me and (WSU’s Washington),” Williams said of the acrobatic move that set up the touchdown. “I figured, why not try to make something happen right here?”
The play had several teammates and coaches gawking afterward.
“What a ridiculous play by Kasen Williams. Jiminy Christmas,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It looked like he jumped seven feet in the air, like he’s a seven-foot high jumper. Just a fantastic play.”
Williams, who did win the state high jump title last spring at 7-feet even, has been showing his athleticism at practices all season. But not until recently has his play on Saturdays started to scratch the surface of where UW fans believed he would soar as a football player.
Of his 33 receptions this season, 19 have come in the past four games. He’s become a focal point of the UW passing game, and the first half of Saturday’s game was his most complete performance yet.
“I was a little quiet that second half. But as far as the first half goes, I felt like that was complete,” he said. “As far as the team goes, we won, and I feel like I was a part of that victory.”
Williams said last week that he was particularly fired up for the Apple Cup after growing up in a UW household that included former Huskies receiver Aaron Williams, his father. He joked that his dad made sure to remind him constantly that going to WSU would not be tolerated, and added that the Apple Cup would be a big opportunity for him to shine.
“It’s another opportunity for me to put my name on the map,” he said Wednesday. “Big crowd out there, and it’s another opportunity for me to put my name out there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Shortly after Saturday’s performance, Williams was chomping at the bit to see his father.
“He’s going to be real proud,” he said. “I can’t wait to walk out of the tunnel and give both him and my mom a hug.”
Sarkisian expects Aaron Williams to be giving plenty of proud hugs to his son over the next few years.
When asked about the thought of seeing Kasen Williams and Price, a third-year sophomore, hook up for two more years of UW passes, Sarkisian said: “I’m pretty excited. They’ve got a nice rapport.”