Junior Adams works with UW’s wide receivers
Andre Baccellia caught his first collegiate touchdown pass on Sept. 3, 2016.
Two years, 11 months, 28 days and 77 receptions later, he caught his second.
The first happened during Washington’s 2016 season opener, a 48-13 route of Rutgers. Baccellia, then a redshirt freshman, was making his collegiate debut. In the second quarter, he recorded his first career reception on a 36-yard pass from Jake Browning. Then, with 29 seconds left in the third quarter, backup quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels found Baccellia for a 4-yard touchdown.
Baccellia has played a role in UW’s offense ever since, particularly as a starter last season. But it took until Saturday’s season opener, a 47-14 victory over Eastern Washington, for Baccellia to return to the end zone.
Once the game started, though, it didn’t take much longer.
On the first play of UW’s second offensive series, quarterback Jacob Eason held the ball for a moment before launching a 50-yard pass to a streaking Baccellia, who beat two Eagles defenders downfield. Baccellia caught the ball in stride before taking the last two steps and — finally — returning to the end zone.
“I kind of just got behind the defense, took the top off the coverage and just let Jacob Eason do his thing, launch it as far as he could,” Baccellia said Wednesday. “It was an awesome play.”
Asked about the wait, Baccellia could only shake his head and grin.
“It definitely felt good,” he said. “It’s been a long time waiting these past few years. I played my role in certain spots during the game, during the season. I stayed patient and it just felt really good.”
Baccellia, now a senior, hardly remembers that first touchdown against Rutgers — “Shoot,” he said. ”I was really young.” It was maybe the 10th play of his college career, and all he really recalls is the excitement.
In the nearly three years since then, Baccellia occasionally thought about the drought. He tried not to let his mind linger there, but he was still excited for Saturday’s touchdown. Maybe even too excited, he admitted.
“At the end of the day, I just want to make any play to help my team win,” Baccellia said, “whether it’s a big fourth down conversion or whatever it is. But obviously, scoring touchdowns helps.”
After the game, fellow wide receiver Aaron Fuller was thrilled about Baccellia’s touchdown reception, more eager to talk about that than his own highlight-reel grabs. It’s difficult for Fuller to believe that Baccellia hadn’t scored a touchdown since 2016, especially since he caught 55 passes for 584 yards last season.
In the last three games of 2018 alone, Baccellia had 25 receptions for 263 yards. The final game of the year — a Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State — was a career-best performance: 12 receptions for 109 yards.
But still no touchdowns.
“Just how he finished the year last year, you would expect him to score a little bit,” Fuller said. “That’s something we kind of messed with him about over the last couple years, how he got stuck at the 1-yard line or the 5-yard line or something like that. It was pretty funny, but it was great to see one of your friends score.”
Baccellia will likely add a few more touchdowns to his collection before the end of the season. He was the leading receiver against Eastern Washington, finishing with five receptions for 84 yards.
“I think he’s a very experienced guy,” offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said. “The moment wasn’t too big. He just focused on one play at a time and let his skill take over.”
But, while Fuller can’t joke with Baccellia about the touchdown gap anymore, he still has some material. Fuller scored two touchdowns on Saturday, bringing his career total to nine. Baccellia still has some catching up to do.
“I can (still tease him) a little bit because he got one,” Fuller said. “He’s going to make a lot more of those plays.”