University of Washington

Here’s what head coach Chris Petersen was told about Huskies’ kick return penalty

Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen walks the sideline during the game. The Washington Huskies played the Oregon Ducks in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.
Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen walks the sideline during the game. The Washington Huskies played the Oregon Ducks in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Joshua.bessex@gmail.com

By the time the game ended and Washington fell to Oregon 35-31, the play was all but forgotten.

But in the minutes after it happened — and for much of the first quarter — the moment dominated conversation. A trick play. A controversial penalty. A kick return wiped out.

Here’s what happened.

After the Ducks opened the game with a touchdown drive, the Huskies decided to run a play head coach Chris Petersen said they practiced all week. After the kick, Chico McClatcher dropped to the turf in the end zone. He then popped up when Aaron Fuller fielded the kick. After Fuller ran a few steps, he threw the ball across the field to McClatcher, who took off for a big gain up the sideline to the 45-yard line.

UW started celebrating, but then the flag came: Unsportmanslike conduct on McClatcher. Petersen asked for an explanation. He was given four. He appeared to find none of them satisfying.

One was simply: “You can’t do that.”

Then: “You can’t fall down before they kick it.”

And then: “You can’t lay down if you have the same color jersey as the end zone.”

The last answer was also floated as a rule on the television broadcast, but was never confirmed.

“It is what it is,” Petersen said. “Last year, the rules were that you can’t lay down before they kick it. He laid down after the ball was kicked. We practiced that. That is what we were told last year.”

Injures and more injuries

The Huskies have played eight straight weeks without a bye. They’re off next week, and the break could be coming at just the right time — especially for the running backs.

Redshirt freshman Richard Newton has been missing since suffering a foot injury against Stanford. Fellow backup Sean McGrew didn’t play against Oregon for health reasons. That left starter Salvon Ahmed to carry the load for the Huskies’ three main running backs. He stepped up, finishing with 140 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.

“It’s definitely hard,” Ahmed said. “Sean and Rich, those guys are really good players who contribute a lot to these team. Like I’ve said, that running back room is full of guys that are ready to contribute. … That room has a bunch of guys that can go out there and make plays.”

Freshman Cameron Davis made his debut, rushing for seven yards on one carry. Kamari Pleasant had six carries for 10 yards, but no other running back had a carry.

On the offensive line, center Nick Harris returned after missing the win over Arizona with an injury and right guard Jaxson Kirkland was also back after getting hurt in the same game. But elsewhere on the offense, leading receiver Aaron Fuller was limited. He only appeared on two kick returns.

“He got a little banged up after last game,” Petersen said. “It was a game-time decision whether he could play. Other guys were rolling pretty good. He wasn’t 100 percent. He couldn’t play how we needed him. We are getting close to needing him.”

Fuller’s fellow receivers did step up in his absence. Nine players caught a pass. Terrell Bynum had his best game of the season, finishing with six catches for 43 yards. Tight end Hunter Bryant had three catches for 65 yards while fellow tight end Cade Otton finished with three receptions for 53 yards. Freshman wide receiver Puka Nacua had three catches for 43 yards. Jordan Chin had one reception: A 48-yard touchdown.

But by the end of the game, another receiver was injured. McClatcher, who had one catch for eight yards, was hurt in the fourth quarter. He walked off under his own power but by the end of the game, he was wearing a boot on his left foot.

“I actually don’t have an update,” Petersen said. “You saw what I saw. He got bent over. I hope he is OK.”

Missed tackles (again)

Missed tackles have been an issue for the Huskies all season, and the problem popped up again in the loss to Oregon, particularly in the second half.

Senior safety Myles Bryant pointed to those missed tackles as the main reason UW struggled to defend the run. The Ducks finished with 154 rushing yards on 38 carries. All but 108 of those yards came in the second half.

“I don’t think we’ve been tackling as well as we needed to,” Bryant said. “That’s kind of like a reoccurring trend in the past few weeks, just tackling. That’s something we’re going to get back and work on.”

Bryant was then asked if the struggles stemmed from inexperience on UW’s defense. The Huskies replaced nine starters from last season and are starting two true freshman in the secondary: Cornerback Trent McDuffie and safety Asa Turner. Fellow true freshman Cameron Williams also started six games at cornerback this season.

“I don’t think it’s a product of youth,” Bryant said. “I think it’s just guys just not in the right position and not going the proper technique to try and bring those guys to the ground.”

Whatever the cause, it’s safe to say tackling will be a focus during the Huskies’ two practices next week.

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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