There were no just-another-game clichés from Kasen Williams this week.
Instead, he plans to appreciate this final game at Husky Stadium for what it is.
“I want to soak it in a little bit, just because I know that the moment’s not going to last forever,” said Williams, one of 18 seniors who will be honored prior to the Huskies’ home finale against Oregon State on Saturday (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
“I feel like it’s been a long season, and it’s been a long career. I’ve only really played a handful of games in Husky Stadium because freshman year was the old stadium, sophomore year was (CenturyLink Field), then last year I was hurt half the year. I don’t have a deep connection with Husky Stadium, but I have a deep connection with Husky Nation, if that makes sense.”
It has indeed been a trying season for Williams, who suffered a gruesome foot/leg injury in a game against California a little more than a year ago, then spent the offseason trying to get healthy enough to play.
He was fully cleared by the time the Huskies began fall camp, but he didn’t look like the same player. Once the games started he essentially was a nonfactor, catching only seven passes in the Huskies’ first 10 games.
His struggles this year, Williams said, have been a result of “the combination of a lot of things. Everything being new in all areas. Coaches, quarterback, system, everything. Just for me, just trying to get back with my foot. I feel good. I feel 100 percent and I’ve been feeling 100 percent for a while now. So it’s about time that we start moving and you’re going to see me on the field a lot more, making more plays.”
That was true last week, when Williams was far more involved in the offense, catching a season-best five passes for 39 yards. He currently ranks fourth on UW’s career receptions list with 154, seven shy of Paul Skansi’s total of 161 and 26 back of Jermaine Kearse’s 180.
Williams, a Sammamish native, said he noticed himself playing better in practice a week or two after UW’s loss to Stanford in late September.
“I’ve been looking good on film and I’ve been playing smoothly,” Williams said. “It’s just all about getting the coaches to trust that it’s all good and everything’s fine, and I think I built that trust with them now, so we’re ready to go.”
In the Beavers, the Huskies are facing an opponent coming off their best victory of the season — a 35-27 upset of then-No. 7 Arizona State.
OSU (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12 Conference), like UW, is trying to secure another victory to become bowl eligible. The Huskies (6-5, 2-5) already have won six games, but because they play a 13-game schedule this season, they need to reach the seven-win mark to be eligible for the postseason.
The seniors should have a sizable impact on the outcome. Of the 18 players participating in UW’s senior day festivities, 10 are listed as starters on the Huskies’ depth chart — four on the defensive line (Andrew Hudson, Evan Hudson, Danny Shelton and Hau’oli Kikaha), four on the offensive line (Micah Hatchie, Mike Criste, Colin Tanigawa and James Atoe), DiAndre Campbell at receiver and John Timu at linebacker.
“They’ll probably be a little bit emotional running out into the stadium for the last time, and hopefully they can refocus and play the best football of their career,” Petersen said. “That’s what I really hope — last time in this stadium, that they have no regrets, that they play as hard as they possibly can, and we feel good about it.”
One player listed as a senior who will not participate in senior day is running back Deontae Cooper, a UW spokesperson said. Cooper, a fifth-year player, missed the first three seasons of his collegiate career due to three separate knee injuries, and was therefore granted two additional years of eligibility — through the 2016 football season — by the NCAA.
Ross Dolbec, a fourth-year junior walk-on who is graduating, will be honored as a senior.