K.J. Carta-Samuels scanned the field before bailing out of the pocket and sprinting toward the first-down stick at the 9-yard line, running with the knowledge that anything short of that mark would cost him and his teammates a chicken dinner.
Quarterbacks are off-limits to contact during spring practices — even during this final preview event Saturday at Husky Stadium — so the defenders pursuing Washington’s third-year sophomore quarterback couldn’t quite chase him with proper fervor. Still, he was forced out of bounds right at the marker, which prompted quite the debate among the rest of the Huskies’ players.
Carta-Samuels was playing for the White team, which trailed by four points and faced a fourth-and-short to extend the drive. Members of the Purple team gathered around the ball spot, shouting “It’s short! It’s short!” in an attempt to persuade the officials.
The verdict: Carta-Samuels didn’t quite get there, and the Purple team held on for a 17-13 victory in the final scrimmage of UW’s spring practice season.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
As a reward, Team Purple earned a meal of Ezell’s Famous Chicken. The White team was relegated to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“I think it’s a lot of fun,” UW coach Chris Petersen said of picking teams and establishing a prize for the winners, something he hadn’t done in his first two springs here. “That’s what it’s all about, being able to compete and have fun. It changes everything.”
Said senior tight end Darrell Daniels: “It was definitely short. We won. We’re eating chicken today.”
There were a few other highlights during the roughly 73-play scrimmage periods, which were spliced between a handful of fan competitions and basic position drills.
UW’s stars didn’t play much. Starting quarterback Jake Browning attempted only seven passes, completing five of them for 65 yards and a 9-yard touchdown to John Ross III. Starting tailback Myles Gaskin did not have a carry. Carta-Samuels attempted and completed more passes than anybody (12 of 17 for 105 yards), there was only one turnover (a fumble recovery by walk-on defensive back De’Andre’ Watson II), and the leading rusher was walk-on tailback Ralph Kinne.
It was Kinne who scored the decisive touchdown, plunging in from 9 yards out one possession before Carta-Samuels’ scramble came up short.
All of that means very little, of course. This was nothing more than a televised practice, though a few thousand fans came to watch (it was also UW’s only practice this spring that was open to the public).
Still, Ross, who missed the 2015 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, appreciated the chance to put on a uniform and play football in front of people again.
“It feels great, just being back out there, being able to catch a touchdown,” Ross said. “It’s been so long. It feels amazing. It kind of feels fake, but I’m happy that I got a chance to do all this again.”
Petersen, as usual, prefers to look at the bigger picture.
“I feel like we’ve made progress,” he said. “I think we’re pointed in the right direction. I just know how much work has to go in and how good we have to be to compete in this conference and do what we want to do. And so I’m encouraged, and I like these guys a lot, but we have so much work to do to get to where we need to be.”
But first, chicken.
The Huskies received recruiting commitments from two players on Saturday — Eastside Catholic tight end Hunter Bryant, and Sacramento, California, receiver Alex Cook. … Players who were present but did not suit up in pads: Austin Joyner, Brandon Beaver, Isaiah Renfro, Quinten Pounds, Ben Burr-Kirven, Connor O’Brien, Sean Constantine, Matt Preston, Coleman Shelton, David Ajamu and Brayden Lenius. … Redshirt freshman receiver Andre Baccellia led all receivers with 68 yards on four receptions. Walk-on receiver Drew Before caught four passes (for 65 yards), and walk-on receiver Forrest Dunivin caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd.