Through three games, Jacob Eason completed 69.2% of his passes, throwing for 773 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. His team’s 12 completions of 20 yards or more ranks 25th nationally and second in the Pac-12, behind only Washington State (21). Eason’s 163.77 pass efficiency rating is good for 34th nationwide, and that number becomes even more impressive when one considers he already has faced the premier secondary on UW’s schedule (California) and his receivers haven’t always helped.
So, on the whole, it’s safe to say Washington’s junior quarterback has turned in a solid September so far.
But what’s the next step?
“I think just commanding the system. That’s probably the No. 1 thing,” UW coach Chris Petersen said during his Monday news conference. “Certainly he can throw the ball and get the ball to the receivers in a hurry. I think that’s just the main thing, is just really understanding exactly what we’re trying to do and some of the RPO (run-pass option) game and when to throw it out there, when not to throw it out there, when to hand it off.
“(It’s) shifts and motions, and sometimes that can be a little bit cumbersome on the quarterbacks. Now he’s got (to handle) protections and all kinds of stuff.”
Eason’s command and decision-making was on display in the 28-yard touchdown Saturday to true freshman wide receiver Puka Nacua. The 6-foot-6, 227-pound junior could have thrown in the direction of sophomore Terrell Bynum, who had found an open pocket up the seam after the offense faked a bubble screen. But Petersen confirmed Monday that the go-route to Nacua was, in fact, the correct read.
“I wouldn’t have taken Terrell (in that situation) either,” Petersen said. “Terrell’s got to find more space in there. Terrell’s taking himself right into coverage. So I know why he came off it and launched it outside and got it there in a hurry. That’s what he can do sometimes, but I thought that was actually pretty good.”
It was pretty good, and it can still be a whole lot better. Eason’s physical gifts, through three games, are apparent. But his success in Pac-12 play might hinge on his understanding of Petersen’s offense, and that’s continuing to improve.
“I definitely have (seen growth since the beginning of the season). Without question,” Petersen said. “I kind of feel that with all the guys that we’ve had out there. You can feel that there’s some growth. You see different things that haven’t come up in practice, different styles, offense, defense, special teams.
“There’s no substitute for that experience. So you do feel the growth, yeah.”
UW running back balance
Get this: three Washington running backs — Salvon Ahmed, Sean McGrew and Richard Newton — led the Huskies with eight carries apiece in the Hawaii victory. The last time UW won a game where its leading rusher had eight carries or fewer was Oct. 18, 1986, when Washington blanked Bowling Green 48-0 and Rick Fenney led the way with seven carries for 28 yards. A total of 11 Huskies earned carries in the victory.
Washington didn’t go quite that far last weekend, but four running backs, wide receiver Andre Baccellia and Eason combined for 190 yards, 6.1 yards per carry and four scores.
“I thought all those guys played well (against Hawaii). I really did,” Petersen said. “I thought our O-line did a pretty good job. I thought all those guys kind of ran tough and found all the creases. It was all a little bit different. Salvon kind of hit a couple long ones and McGrew kind of bounced around and found some holes. I thought he ran pretty tough after the game. Looking at tape, I thought the same thing. And Rich always seems to run pretty tough down there.”
Through three games, the balance inside the UW running backs room has been evident. Ahmed (246 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 2 TDs), Newton (162, 5.6, 4) and McGrew (94, 6.3, 1) have settled into significant roles (with junior Kamari Pleasant being the odd man out).
There’s no Myles Gaskin, sure. But the Huskies’ committee approach has been paying early dividends — and it might allow Ahmed, McGrew and Newton to produce similar performances from September through December.
“We feel like we’ve got some good players back there that are all a little bit different,” Petersen said. “I said it after the game, too: I think Keith Bhonapha (running backs coach) does a good job of kind of mixing those guys in, and we’re going to need those guys. There’s no question.
“They carried the ball eight times, but I think there’s a couple of them that feel like it’s more than eight times in terms of just getting pounded a little bit and those types of things.”
Cam Williams joins the pick parade
The football might as well have fallen from heaven.
Early in the fourth quarter Saturday, Rainbow Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald attempted a pass that was tipped high into the air by UW linebacker Kyler Manu. Freshman safety Cameron Williams was the fortunate recipient — running under the ball, snatching it and returning it 19 yards before coasting out of bounds.
For Williams — a 6-foot, 191-pound true freshman — the season’s first three weeks has provided ample learning experiences. The product out of Bakersfield, Calif., has made three starts and seven tackles.
But Petersen said he hopes that interception could be the start of a sparkling career.
“I think it’s big,” Petersen said. “I think for a guy like him, every new experience is (big). The more tackles he makes, he gains confidence — whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or in the open field or, you know, gets an interception for sure. To understand that the ball is coming his way, will be coming his way, I think it’s huge and I think that’s going to help his confidence quite a bit.”
Myles Bryant wins Pac-12 weekly award
UW senior safety Myles Bryant was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after he turned in four tackles, two interceptions and a sack in his team’s victory over Hawaii. After sliding from nickel to safety, the 5-9, 185-pound senior has contributed 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions and a sack in three games this season.
Bryant and Williams — the Huskies’ starting safeties — each earned interceptions in the win over the Rainbow Warriors.