Aaron Fuller made two remarkable touchdown catches on Saturday.
First there was the leaping, one-handed grab in the back corner of the end zone. Fuller twisted his body in the air, dragging a toe in-bounds as he was pushed over the sideline in the first quarter. Asked about the reception later, fellow receiver Chico McClatcher could only shake his head and offer a one-word review — “Spectacular.”
As an encore, Fuller hauled in a 18-yard pass from Jacob Eason at the start of the third quarter. This time he dove, managing once again to get his feet down in the end zone before he landed out of bounds.
“The one word that I think of with him is poise,” said offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan. “Ever since he got here as a true freshman, the moment was never too big if you will. He’s never too high, never too low. He’s not a guy, even when you coach him, that goes one way or the other. He’s very mature and I think that shows in his game.”
Yes, Washington’s leading returning receiver certainly looked the part during the Huskies’ 47-14 season-opening victory over Eastern Washington. But for as well as Fuller played — and his first touchdown catch will certainly be making the rounds on every possible highlight show — his favorite two plays of the game didn’t involve him at all.
Instead, Fuller lit up as he talked about Eason’s 50-yard touchdown pass to senior Andre Baccellia, which marked Baccellia’s first touchdown since his freshman debut in 2016. And he also relished McClatcher’s 10-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. McClatcher, who stepped way from football for personal reasons last season, hadn’t caught a touchdown since the 2016 Pac-12 championship game.
“That kind of made my day over the touchdowns I scored or anyone else scored,” Fuller said. “Just seeing those two guys score is pretty amazing. Chico coming back from his mental leave and Andre not scoring since his freshman year. Seeing them score makes me beyond happy.”
It’s a safe bet that head coach Chris Petersen had a similar reaction, for multiple reasons. During his press conference on Monday, Petersen all but openly challenged the receivers to take a step forward this season. The depth was there in numbers, he said, now they had to show it in execution.
Saturday was a good start.
Baccellia had five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown while Fuller had five receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns. McClatcher finished with five catches for 57 yards and a score. Sophomore Terrell Bynum added two receptions for 32 yards. Combined, the four receivers finished with 17 receptions for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
“The receivers made some plays today,” Petersen said. “That’s what we needed to do. We need to be well positioned to make sure they have space to operate and go make places. I think we did a nice job of that today.”
Fuller was quick to mention that the group wasn’t even at full strength.
Junior wide receiver Ty Jones — a starter last season who is now listed as a backup on UW’s depth chart — will reportedly miss the majority of the season with a hand injury. He spent the game on the sidelines in his jersey and sweatpants. Senior Quinten Pounds, who underwent a major knee surgery last season, didn’t play either. Also out was redshirt freshman Trey Lowe, who Petersen said is battling an infection.
Other receivers — like redshirt freshman Marquis Spiker and Austin Osborne and true freshman Puka Nacua — played only sparingly. Fuller’s point? There are more potential weapons waiting in the wings.
“When you have guys scoring from every position, multiple guys and things like that, it brings that spark,” Fuller said. “People are having fun now. They’re not getting down on anybody. They’re out their creating plays, explosive plays.”