SEATTLE – All appeared normal: Hau’oli Kikaha, the Huskies outside linebacker and national sacks leader, blew past UCLA’s right tackle and sacked quarterback Brett Hundley on the Bruins’ first possession of Saturday’s game at Husky Stadium.
But Kikaha came off the field favoring his shoulder, spent the rest of the first half being examined by trainers on the sideline, and didn’t play again during the Huskies’ 44-30 loss to UCLA.
Huskies coach Chris Petersen said afterward that Kikaha has a stinger, a nerve injury that shoots stinging or burning pain down the arm.
Without him, the Huskies had trouble putting any kind of meaningful pressure on Hundley, who dissected Washington’s young secondary for 29-of-36 passing, 302 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception.
“I think we could all feel it. I think you guys probably felt it,” Petersen said. “Hundley’s a heck of a quarterback and if he can hang in there and not feel pressured, things change. And that coupled with being young back there, that’s not a good combination for us at all. So we definitely felt it.”
Aside from Kikaha’s first-quarter takedown, Hundley was not sacked.
“A lot of it was just the upperclassmen trying to kind of do his job at the same time, but that’s obviously the wrong mindset,” senior nose tackle Danny Shelton said. “It should have been more confident. You saw how the game went. Hau’oli’s a big factor in the game, and it’s pretty tough to do things without him.”
Kikaha, a fifth-year senior, improved his school-record and nation-leading season sack total to 16.5. The 116 yards opponents have lost on Kikaha’s 22.5 tackles for loss this season is also a school record.
He wasn’t the only key member of UW’s defense who left the game with an injury. Sophomore safety Kevin King, the only non-true-freshman member of UW’s starting secondary, left the game in the third quarter with what Petersen said was a leg cramp. He thinks King will be fine.
James Atoe, who again moved from right guard to right tackle to help make up for an injury to redshirt freshman Coleman Shelton, also left the game with an apparent injury, though Petersen said he wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
John Ross III said he was texting last night with Marcus Peters, the Huskies’ former top defensive back who was dismissed from the team earlier this week.
Ross, who switched from receiver to cornerback this week, said Peters wanted to help him with his assignments.
“He was telling me, going over the coverages, letting me know what I should do, what I should watch out for,” Ross said, “just like that.”
Huskies players said Peters’ dismissal was a disappointing development.
“It hurt,” Ross said, “because Marcus is so good, and he was like a big brother to us.”
“For the most part, we handled it OK,” said senior tailback Deontae Cooper. “It sucks to see one of your brothers kicked off the team, but you’ve got to take care of business. That’s kind of the message. We still support him, and we’ll still be there for him. But you’ve got to follow the rules.”
Senior linebacker John Timu said that “we still got love for Marcus, and the things he did here were very special. But Naijiel (Hale) stepped in, and we’ve got to back him up.”
Ross played both nickel cornerback and outside cornerback against the Bruins, finishing with two tackles in addition to his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“It was fun. Our defensive side of the ball, they’re always clowning around and they do a good job over there,” Ross said. “Coach (Jimmy) Lake made everything simple. Our safeties made things simple. I had fun, honestly, the whole week, in preparation for this game.”
EXTRA POINTS: Kikaha has now recorded a sack in 14 consecutive games, and moved into eighth-place on the Pac-12’s all-time career sack list. … Ross’ kick return was the fifth 100-yard play in UW history, and the second this season. … Thompson is now UW’s leading rusher with 456 yards and 7.5 yards per carry.