As the waterfall of oohs and aahs washes over the latest Huskies football hero, QB Jacob Eason, it is important to note, before his legend swells beyond recognition, that the most impressive pass he threw fell incomplete.
In Saturday’s 47-14 walk-over (box) of Eastern Washington at Husky Stadium — the Big Sky Conference foe that University of Washington coach Chris Petersen tried in vain to hype into Notre Dame — Eason in the second quarter had to corral a bad snap in shotgun formation. At the UW 35-yard line, he stepped to his right for a clear view of WR Aaron Fuller streaking down the sideline, beating single coverage.
Then Eason launched, with smoke and fire reminiscent of a Saturn V Apollo rocket.
Fuller takes the description from here.
“I swear to you it came from heaven,” he said, smiling. “It was a nine-ball he threw from the 35 to the goal line. I just saw it go into the clouds and come down.
“It was off a bad snap too. I don’t know how he did it. But he did it with ease.”
Lamentably, Fuller’s human legs were no match for the weapon of the superhero.
“At first, I slowed down because I saw the bad snap,” Fuller said. “When I saw him throw it, I tried as hard as I could to get there. He put it OUT there.”
Eason put a lot out there — 27 completions in 36 attempts for 349 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions — in what was as distinguished a debut for a Huskies quarterback in memory. It should have been, because he’s a junior who started as a freshman for Georgia in the Southeastern Conference.
Still, you never know.
The foe was, after all, Eastern, which twice scared the bejeezus out of the Huskies, who scraped out wins in 2011 (30-27) and 2014 (59-52) against the supposedly little guys from Cheney. And Eason, the one-time national prep player of the year from Lake Stevens, had to live up to the scrutiny of the hometown fans predisposed to expect the next John Elway (who, by the way, was born in Port Angeles).
“I’m a little older, I have more experience, and I saw (the UW home opener) last year, even though I didn’t get to play in it. Just tried to do my part,” Eason said. “I don’t like to make comparisons, here or there. Obviously, being home, being in front of my family in my home state, it was awesome, to get out there and do what I do.”
Which he hadn’t done in nearly two years, thanks to a first-game injury that mostly wiped out his sophomore season with the Bulldogs. After transferring to UW, he had to sit out last season, which meant he really hadn’t been clobbered by an opponent practically since childhood.
An Eastern linebacker helped with that oversight, delivering a clean hit to Eason’s chest after releasing a pass, leaving the 6-6, 230-pounder flat on his back.
“I felt that one a little bit,” he said. Petersen sounded almost gleeful.
“He got out of the pocket one time, and I think he got hit and knocked down,” he said. “That was good to have him feel that and come out clean.”
Also clean were the first three UW possessions, all of which resulted in touchdowns that bordered on the spectacular.
The first one was from a wildcat formation that featured a direct snap to unheralded RB Richard Newton, a redshirt freshman from California, who blasted straight ahead through the surprised Eagles defense for 23 yards, while Eason lined up as slot receiver.
The second was what many in 30,000-some crowd came to see — an Eason rainbow that traveled 50 yards to wide-open WR Andre Bacellia, who casually gathered it at the 5-yard line and sashayed to a score.
“Eason went to his second option on that play,” Petersen said. “We had good play-action. Jacob threw a good ball. I think Hunter Bryant was also open.
“It is nice to see the ball flying down the field.”
Petersen would never say so, but that last remark was an obvious reference to the previous QB, Jake Browning, whose lack of a power arm was the Huskies’ biggest offensive impediment in 2018.
The third score was an ESPN Top 10 Plays entry: On third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, a fade route forced Fuller to twist around his body to spear the ball one-handed against good coverage, while managing avert the end-zone sideline by a millimeter or so.
“To be honest, Pete doesn’t like us doing (one-handed catches),” Fuller said. “It’s more if a meeting-type thing (when it’s practiced). Everything clicked on that play and J put it in a great spot.”
The hidden part of the play was a well-executed hard count by Eason that drew Eastern offsides, which would have resulted in a free play. But the refs whiffed on calling a penalty, meaning the catch needed to be made or the drive would have ended with a field goal attempt.
“We practiced that hard count all week,” Fuller said. “If I had dropped it, it would have been bad.”
It would have been one of the few misfires in a remarkably clean opener for Washington. All Fuller has to do run a little faster to keep up with the fallout from the heavens.