First, Myles Gaskin exited the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.
He didn’t return for the rest of the first half. And even when he sporadically played after the break, it was clear he wasn’t healthy enough for his usual production.
Backup Salvon Ahmed went down next, limping off the field after his knee appeared to buckle with no contact. He, too, went to the injury tent. Then he, too, watched much of the second half from the sideline.
That left the Washington with sophomores Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant available at running back. And while the Huskies fell to Oregon 30-27 in overtime, the two backups were more than up for the task.
And McGrew, at least, wasn’t even nervous about it.
“I’m a pretty calm person,” McGrew said. “That’s what I’ve been practicing forever since I got here. I’ve just always been ready, waiting for that moment. So when the time came, I was ready for that moment. … I just wanted to win the game and do the best I could for my brothers.”
McGrew finished with eight carries for 30 yards, while Pleasant had four carries for 30 yards. Their numbers weren’t eye-popping, but both played crucial roles for UW late in the second half.
At halftime, McGrew had just one carry for 7 yards. Pleasant didn’t have any carries at all. By the end of regulation, McGrew had seven carries for 32 yards. He also caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 30-yard reception.
“We feel good about our running back depth,” said UW coach Chris Petersen. “Those two kids can run hard and make plays, and I’m actually glad they got an opportunity to do something in a meaningful game. That will make us all better.”
On the Huskies’ final offensive series of regulation — the one that set up Peyton Henry’s failed game-winning field goal attempt — McGrew started the drive with back-to-back 7-yard runs and finished with five carries for 27 yards.
“Sean made big plays toward the end of the game in the second half,” said tight end Drew Sample. “It’s always nice to have guys embrace the moment and be able to make plays for us.”
Pleasant had two carries for 8 yards on that same drive. He also got the nod in overtime, opening with a 19-yard run that moved UW to Oregon’s 6-yard line. Pleasant then got 3 more yards on his next rush, but then the Huskies’ drive stalled out.
“I thought Sean and Kamari came in and played really well,” said quarterback Jake Browning. “That was big for us. Kamari had a big run in overtime. … We just weren’t able to punch it in.”
While McGrew and Pleasant might have caught Oregon off guard, their performances weren’t a surprise for the Huskies. The two have earned the praise of Petersen all season, particularly after their strong runs late in the runaway victory over North Dakota.
“We have a super talented running back room,” Sample said. “In the games they might not get the looks that other guys do, but their big-play capability is there. I’m excited for those guys, for sure.”