Everyone around the Washington Huskies program has seen the Rulon Gardner-side of Tevis Bartlett.
But the J.J. Watt side of him? That is a different story.
Sandwiched in between all the offensive and special-teams scoring fireworks of sixth-ranked UW’s 48-16 victory over Fresno State on Saturday night was arguably the most athletic play made by a Huskies defender all season.
Right after the UW jumped out to a 14-0 lead with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter, the Bulldogs tried going to their quick-hit passing game to get something going.
On their first play, Chason Virgil tried hitting tailback Ronnie Rivers on a screen play near the right sideline.
Bartlett read it. And he reacted to it even better.
“I got up the field, and I knew they were going to cut (block) me,” Bartlett said. “We worked all week playing the cut and gettin gyour hands up.”
He certainly did, getting his big paw up not only to try and knock the pass down, he hauled it in for his first career interception.
And Bartlett took off 24 yards down to the Fresno State 7.
One play later, Myles Gaskin ran it in for a touchdown, and the Huskies had a 21-0 cushion.
None of his teamates are surprised how flexible and with how much leverage Bartlett plays with, especially rushing the passer. He was a four-time state high school wrestling champion from Wyoming who won his final 106 matches in a row.
But the jump? That opened up some eyes.
“I’ve seen the wrestling side plenty of times,” UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “I didn’ tknow about the hops yet.”
It was a banner first half for Bartlett, who recorded a 4-yard loss of Virgil from his stomach — with an offensive lineman sitting on his back — later in the quarter.
“I saw the (pulling blocker) coming, and I knew to close it quick,” Bartlett said. “We awlways talking about climbing to the quarterback, and it happened to work out like that tomight.”
And with less than seven minutes remining in the first half, Bartlett dropped back in coverage, and nearly made a second acrobatic interception in front of top Fresno State receiver KeeSean Johnson.
”If he catches that,” UW coach Chris Petersen said, “(then) all of a sudden we start thinking he is wearing a cape.”
Bartlett finished with a game-high three tackles for loss, as well as the two stellar plays on passes.
Two of the team’s starting receivers, Chico McClatcher and Andre Baccellia, did not play Saturday. At least McClatcher suited up and went through pre-game drills before sitting out. Petersen is optimistic both of them will be available next week for the Pac-12 opener at Colorado. In their place, reserves Aaron Fuller, Brayden Lenius and Quinten Pounds combined to catch 10 passes. ... Tight end Drew Sample (right leg), who was injured in the first quarter against Montana, also did not play. ...
Gaskin scored two rushing touchdowns Saturday, and now have 30 total scores in 30 career games. He also logged his first fumble since his junior season at O’Dea. “That kind of overshadows everything else,” Gaskin said. ... Receiver Jordan Chin and tight end Hunter Bryant, a true freshman, made their first career starts. Bryant cauight a 36-yard pass from receiver Dante Pettis on the first play. Now, 36 UW players have started at least one game during their career. ...
Pettis’ three-touchdown receiving game Saturday marked the 16th time in school history that has happened. It was the second time he has accomplished that feat. His 20 career receiving scores put his No. 6 all-time, and one behind Gig Harbor product Austin Seferian-Jenkins for fifth. ... Quarterback Jake Browning had four or more passing touchdowns for the seventh time in his career Saturday. He now has 67 for his career, just eight behind Keith Price for the Huskies’ record.