University of Washington

New father Dwayne Washington is becoming a bigger weapon in Huskies’ passing game

AP

After he caught a touchdown pass and ran for another in Washington’s 49-3 blowout of Arizona on Saturday night, Dwayne Washington had a conversation in the tunnel outside the Huskies’ locker room.

He had a couple conversations, in fact: one with a reporter, and another one, simultaneously, with his girlfriend and newborn daughter, Nori, using his iPhone.

“I’m actually on FaceTime with her right now,” the fourth-year junior said, smiling, gesturing to the screen on his phone.

Nori was born Oct. 9, and Washington says “it’s the best feeling in the world, honestly. I wouldn’t ask for nothing else but my little princess.”

He’s feeling OK on the field, too, despite receiving fewer carries behind freshman star Myles Gaskin. Washington’s role is a little different this year — he has only 41 carries in eight games (though he was slowed some by a minor knee injury), but ranks second on the team in receiving yards with 307 and is third in receptions with 23. His three touchdown catches lead the team.

For comparison, Washington, who played receiver in high school, finished the 2014 season with just 15 catches for 91 yards.

“I think the biggest thing that has helped him this year as far as catching the ball out of the backfield is just really taking the time to work on it and do a good job and focusing his eyes and his hands on the football,” running backs coach Keith Bhonapha said. “And he just continues to progress. It’s a simple strategy: if you work at it, you get better.”

The wheel route seems to suit him. Against Arizona, Washington caught a 36-yard pass up the sideline from Jake Browning to move the Huskies into the red zone, then capped the same drive with a 13-yard catch on another wheel.

Both throws, offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said, were dictated by coverage. On the first, UW sent a player in motion, which led to “a little bit of bad eyes” by the Arizona defender who should have picked up Washington. On the second, Arizona pressured, and Washington sprinted right past the outside defender.

Gaskin leads the team with 655 yards rushing on 108 carries, and is very much the team’s lead back. But Washington can still tote it, too — he ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run on Saturday — and his skills as a receiver have made him an intriguing weapon in the passing game.

“I just think he gives you a little more versatility with his size and speed,” Bhonapha said. “Especially when you’ve got a back that you can pretty much count on catching the ball out of the backfield, it definitely makes himself a threat and really adds another element in the offensive strategy, week to week.”

Said Smith: “We’ve got a few things that we know specifically he’s going to be in, and those are a little bit designed to go his way. Again, coverage is going to dictate a lot of times where that ball goes, and that’s how it’s played out.”

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