University of Washington

Loss to Utah a game of highs and lows for Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason

Washington Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason (10) walks along the sideline after a three-and-out during the third quarter. The Washington Huskies played the Utah Utes in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.
Washington Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason (10) walks along the sideline after a three-and-out during the third quarter. The Washington Huskies played the Utah Utes in a NCAA football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019.

Entering Saturday’s game against No. 9 Utah, Washington quarterback Jacob Eason had only thrown three interceptions on the season.

In the 33-28 loss to the Utes, he threw two — including one intended for wide receiver Aaron Fuller that cornerback Jaylon Johnson ran back 39 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.

“They brought pressure off the edge and I made a bad decision,” Eason said. “I threw the ball and their corners are really good and they made a play.”

The first pick came earlier in the third quarter when Eason threw a ball intended for Cade Otton into traffic along the sideline. Instead of Otton, Utah cornerback Julian Blackmon came up with it.

Eason also fumbled in the first quarter after he scrambled and attempted a slide, but mostly fell forward head first. Utah took over at UW’s 15-yard line and while the Huskies’ defense prevented a touchdown, the Utes still scored on a 31-yard field goal. Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said he’d like to see Eason stay in the pocket longer.

“I think always,” Hamdan said. “I think that’s always a point of emphasis for us. … I think we got to continue to build on that but he’s made some good plays.”

Mistakes have been rare for Eason this season, but they proved costly on Saturday. Overall, Eason completed 29-of-52 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

“It’s something a quarterback goes through,” Hamdan said of Eason’s pick-six. “That one we wish we had back for sure. In the red zone, as we know, it’s touchdowns or check downs. We got to continue to build on that and make sure if it’s not there, we take what we give us.”

It wasn’t all bad for Eason. He was particularly impressive early, and he made all the plays that are now expected from him — like the 21-yard laser to Marquis Spiker on third-and-17 in the first quarter. He also threw four touchdowns. The most impressive was a 34-yard, perfectly-placed fade to Hunter Bryant with 12:19 left in the second quarter. He found Bryant again for a 40-yard touchdown. He also three an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Chin and hit Fuller from 3-yards out on the Huskies’ final drive.

Eason’s performance had its highs and lows, and Hamdan said he needed time to evaluate the tape before offering more thoughts. But head coach Chris Petersen was sure of one thing: The Huskies threw the ball too many times. They finished with just 22 rushing attempts.

“We got to be able to run the ball,” Petersen said. “That’s a good run defense but that wasn’t the plan, to throw it that many times. But you get behind, sometimes those stats get inflated and you’re throwing it to catch up.”

Silver linings

If you’re looking for bright spots after the Huskies’ loss to the Utes, here are a few:

  • Tight end Hunter Bryant caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. It was Bryant’s best performance since he had five receptions for 115 yards and one touchdowns against Hawaii. The last time Bryant caught more than three passes was the victory over USC on Sept. 28.

  • Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Terrell Bynum continued his upward trajectory. After his career game against Oregon — he caught six passes for 43 yards — he set new personal highs against Utah. Bynum finished with seven receptions with 68 yards, leading all UW wide receivers.

  • Two other wide receivers made big plays for the Huskies. Jordan Chin recorded his second touchdown pass of the season when he hauled in an 11-yard throw from Eason to put UW up 7-0 in the first quarter. Spiker had the 21-yard reception on third down.

  • The defense also had its moments. It stopped Utah from scoring after Eason’s first interception and held the Utes to field goal after the fumble. The Huskies also forced a fumble (Edefuan Ulofoshio) and recovered two (Elijah Molden, Trent McDuffie). The Huskies finished with four sacks and seemed on pace for more, but they couldn’t get to the quarterback in the second half.

Puka Nacua breaks foot

Petersen confirmed after the game that freshman wide receiver Puka Nacua broke his foot at practice and would miss four to five weeks. He didn’t rule out the possibility of Nacua returning for a potential bowl game.

Nacua was starting to hit his stride for the Huskies. Before sitting out against Utah, he had played in every game this season. After catching three passes for 97 yards against Arizona, he had three receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Oregon two weeks ago. On the season, Nacua has seven catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

“I got hurt my freshman year, like you all know,” Bryant said. “Injuries are tough mentally but I feel we have a great family here and the players rally around each other. It makes it a lot easier to come back and come back stronger than when you got hurt.”

Extra points

Wide receiver Ty Jones suited up for the first time this season and went through warm-ups with the Huskies, but he didn’t play. Asked about it afterward, Petersen said: “Ty’s ready to go. We got to get him going. There’s no question about it. he’s kind of the next man up. We got to him going.” … Running back Sean McGrew returned after not playing against Oregon with an injury. He had one carry for 6 yards. … Wide receiver Chico McClatcher didn’t dress after leaving the Oregon loss in the third quarter. After that game, he was seen wearing a walking boot. … Freshman running back Cam Davis, who played against Oregon, was on the sideline in sweats with a cast on his left hand. … Also did not play: Running back Richard Newton (foot) and linebacker MJ Tafisi (stinger).

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