WR Kearse set tone for Huskies

  • By Scott M. Johnson and Rich Myhre Herald Writers
  • Sunday, December 6, 2009 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — In the first quarter of Saturday’s game against California at Husky Stadium, Washington wide receiver Jermaine Kearse looked like he would surpass — no, obliterate — a couple of single-game University of Washington receiving records.

A sophomore from Lakewood, Kearse had five catches for 135 yards in the opening period, giving him a real chance to break UW one-game records for receptions (15) and receiving yards (257).

Kearse was particularly impressive on Washington’s first possession, catching a 38-yard pass from wide receiver Cody Bruns and a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Locker on two of the team’s first four plays from scrimmage.

“(Kearse) set the tone tonight,” said UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. “The guy made two great catches just to start this thing off and to get it rolling.”

In the end, there would be no records for Kearse. He finished with seven catches for 147 yards.

Kearse, who totaled six receiving touchdowns in his final four games, gave much of the credit to Locker on Saturday.

“All the balls he threw to me today were great,” Kearse said. “All the deeps balls were right there. He gave me a chance with every single ball he threw me. He did a tremendous job.”

The wide receiver pass was one the coaching staff put in for the Arizona State game, but never called. It’s been in the UW playbook since then, though it was not called until Saturday.

It was, Sarkisian said, supposed to be the first play of the game, but instead turned out to be the second play even though the coach was not completely comfortable with the field position — Washington was at its own 27-yard line.

“I just thought, ‘We’ve got to go.’ We’ve never been hesitant in anything we’ve done here,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve been aggressive in everything we’ve done and we’ll continue to be. So I didn’t want to waver. I went with it on the second play, and Cody made a nice throw and a heck of a play by Jermaine Kearse.”

Great fans

UW fullback Paul Homer, who was making his final appearance as a Husky, said he got chills walking down the tunnel for the final time. The support of the fans, he said, was something he will always remember.

“I came from Nebraska, and all we had was football,” said Homer, who grew up in Omaha. “We’re super loud, but … these fans are just incredible. I’ve heard it louder here than I heard it in Nebraska Stadium, and I’ve been to some big games at Nebraska Stadium. These fans exceeded my expectations.”

Tuiasosopo misses Senior Night

Because of what Sarkisian called a “serious illness in his family,” UW linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo was not able to be among the players honored at Senior Night.

Tuiasosopo, a sixth-year senior from Mariner High School, was not able to attend the game Saturday night.

“I told our guys in our pre-game huddle: ‘We’re playing this game for Trenton, who couldn’t be here tonight with us,’” senior Donald Butler said afterward. “I know (injured linebackers E.J. Savannah and) Brandon Huppert, who just like Trenton, couldn’t be out there. We definitely went out there and played for them.”

Tuiasosopo was honored at Senior Night at the end of the 2008 season but was granted a sixth year by the NCAA as a medical hardship shortly thereafter. He missed his freshman season with a knee injury and suffered serious head and facial injuries in an on-campus bicycle accident in the spring of 2005.

Defense comes to play … again

After being much maligned for most of the season, the UW defense has come together in recent weeks.

The Huskies allowed just 10 total points in back-to-back wins over Washington State and Cal, giving coordinator Nick Holt reason for optimism for the future.

“The expectation level is going to be high,” he said Saturday night. “The kids are going to be going into the spring saying: ‘Look what we can do.’”

After a 24-23 loss to UCLA on Nov. 7, the Huskies had allowed six consecutive opponents to put up at least 400 yards of offense on them.

But after snapping that streak at Oregon State, UW has allowed averages of 279.5 and 5.0 points in wins over WSU and Cal.

“The kids are getting better at what they’re doing,” Holt said. “That’s really what it is.”

Seven of the Huskies’ 11 defensive starters in Saturday’s game were underclassmen.

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