Cyler Miles knew the Huskies’ star linebacker was heading into the game as a running back on the team’s third offensive series, so he grabbed him on the sidelines and predicted six points.
“I said ‘You’re going to break one,’ ” Miles said. “I honestly knew he was going to break.”
Shaq Thompson obliged. He carried the ball three times, all on that third series, in Washington’s 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday — first for eight yards, then for one yard and then, on third-and-one, Thompson busted straight up the middle for a 57-yard touchdown run that gave the Huskies a 21-0 lead.
“Every time we get him in there, we like what we see,” said coach Chris Petersen, who repped Thompson at running back throughout the spring before easing off during fall camp. “And so we wanted to get him a series, and he made the series kind of short and we like that.”
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The junior from Sacramento also finished with a team-high 14 tackles, including a sack, and was alongside linebacker John Timu to force a key EWU fumble in the fourth quarter.
Thompson had no interest in self-adulation afterward.
“I’m going to talk about the offensive line,” Thompson said. “They came out hot. They told me they had me when we first were in the hotel. They told me they were going to come out and block, and that’s what they did. They blocked for all the running backs. Once I knew they fired out the first carry, I knew I had to get it.”
Thompson’s first three carries of his career provided a surprising complement to what was an otherwise stellar day for the UW running game. They averaged 6.2 yards per carry en route to 356 yards rushing, led by freshman Lavon Coleman’s 118 yards on 17 carries.
Miles, a third-year sophomore quarterback, chipped in plenty himself in his first start of the season. He rushed 12 times for 58 yards and three touchdowns. The Centennial, Colorado, native did not start the Huskies’ opener at Hawaii while serving a one-game suspension stemming from an offseason assault investigation.
“Really proud of our offense,” Petersen said. “They did what they needed to do, made a lot of strides, improvements. The O-line, running backs, Cyler. It was his first chance and he was pretty efficient out there for the first time.”
Despite the lopsided offensive numbers posted by both teams, Huskies nose tackle Danny Shelton managed to etch his name in the record book, too.
Shelton pressured EWU quarterback Vernon Adams all afternoon, finishing with 12 tackles and four sacks. He is the fifth player in UW history to record at least four sacks in a game, and the first since Martin Harrison did it against Oregon State in 1989.
Shelton, a senior from Auburn, now has 24 tackles and six sacks through the Huskies’ first two games.
“Our game plan was just to squeeze the pocket,” Shelton said. “In the end, it’s just whoever gets the sack, gets the sack.”
Thompson and senior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha each added sacks, too.
The play resulted in a sack, and should have given Eastern Washington a fourth-and-long and forced the Eagles to punt and give the ball back to the Huskies’ offense midway through the third quarter.
But after Thompson dropped Adams in the backfield, Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters got into a jawing match with an Eagles receiver and was subsequently flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave EWU a gift first down.
For that, Peters was benched. And the Eagles, who were rarely stopped by the Huskies’ defense, used Peters’ mistake to score a touchdown eight plays later on a fourth-and-3 play from UW’s 22-yard line.
“I’m not into the stupid penalties,” Petersen said. “And it’s really easy for me; it’s not even an issue whether a guy is going to play or not. You don’t play how we want you to play? You’re not playing. It’s not even a decision for me. It’s easy.”
Travell Dixon replaced Peters, the Huskies’ best defensive back, for the rest of the game.
HANDS TO FACE
The Huskies were penalized 10 times for 100 yards, and three of those calls were for defensive players illegally placing their hands on the faces of offensive players.
“I’ve never seen that called so many times,” Petersen said. “So it will be a big point of emphasis, no question.”
Three Washington freshmen made their collegiate debuts Saturday — cornerback Sidney Jones, defensive lineman Will Dissly, and receiver Dante Pettis.
The 111 combined points Saturday are the third most in a game in UW history, and the most since the Huskies combined with Baylor to score 123 in the 2011 Alamo Bowl (Baylor won, 67-56). … The Huskies’ 59 points are tied for sixth most in school history. … Miles is one of 26 players in UW history to score three touchdowns in a game, and is one of only two quarterbacks on that list. Keith Price is the other.