Huskies' special teams makes several big plays
Inexperience in the Vikings' unit helped contribute to several UW highlights, including a blocked field goal and fake punt.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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On the opening play, Justin Glenn noticed Portland State align in a kickoff formation he hadn't seen the previous week during film study on the Vikings.
That's when he suspected an onside attempt and alerted everyone on Washington's return team.
"The kicker slowed down, too, so that's when I really anticipated it," Glenn said. "They tried to take (Scott Lawyer) and clear him out of the way, and I just jumped on the ball."
The recovery was the first of several big plays for the special teams that helped the Huskies close the nonconference portion of their schedule with a 52-13 win at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
"We're trying to put, as coach said, more of our best players on special teams to make plays," Glenn said. "Coaches are really stressing that.
"Special teams are a third of the game, so if you win that phase and you win another phase, you're most likely going to win the game."
Washington's special teams returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and blocked a point-after-touchdown attempt.
The Huskies also executed a fake punt, which essentially delivered an early knockout blow in a fight that was over before halftime.
Facing fourth and four at the PSU 48, kicker Travis Coons faked a punt and threw a 16-yard pass to junior safety Sean Parker, who was wide open on the left sideline, to keep the drive alive at the 32.
Six plays later, the Huskies scored to take a 21-0 lead with 12:17 left in the second quarter, and the rout was on.
"After practice, me and Travis worked on it and my releases and everything," Parker said. "The timing was good, and it worked out good today."
On the next possession, Portland State's drive stalled at the Washington 16 and the Vikings attempted a 33-yard field goal.
UW freshman defensive back Shaq Thompson darted through the line and blocked the attempt from sophomore kicker Nick Fernandez.
Tre Watson never saw Thompson's block, but he heard the ball ricochet before scooping up the deflection and racing 79 yards for a score.
"It came right to my hands," Watson said. "I'm just happy to be in the right place at the right time."
Portland State coach Nigel Burton attributed many of the special-team problems to inexperience. Fernandez replaced Zach Brown, the Vikings' preseason senior All-American who injured his knee in the opener.
PSU was also forced to rely on freshman long snapper Kameron Canaday, who began the season fourth on the depth chart.
"It's football, so it's no excuses," Burton said. "But that's tough duty."
Washington finished the first half with Coons booting a 41-yard field goal to put the Huskies up 45-0. It tied the most points in school history in a half.
In the third quarter, redshirt freshman cornerback Marcus Peters blocked a PAT after giving up a 70-yard touchdown reception.
Freshman returner Marvin Hall also had a solid outing and nearly scored on a 37-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, but stepped out at the 50. He also had a 32-yard return.
"Seeing big plays on special teams is something that we're trying to get used to," Glenn said. "We're trying to expect them to happen.
"That's what we need. If you expect to make plays and anticipate stuff, good things will happen."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org