SEATTLE – Sunday turned out to be the perfect day for a football game.
With the starters watching from the sidelines.
The University of Washington football team rewarded its young players and backups after two full practice days by putting them through a full-pad scrimmage inside the Dempsey Indoor Center while rain poured down outside on Sunday morning.
Rather than watch Chris Polk try to build off his 284-yard Apple Cup performance, the coaches saw sophomore Demitrius Bronson bowl through for the only two scores of the session. Rather than test senior quarterback Jake Locker’s sore ribs, they gave freshmen Keith Price and Nick Montana a head start on the battle to be Locker’s eventual replacement.
“It was for our young guys,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said afterward. “They had two days to prep for this.”
During the first three of 14 scheduled practice days for the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl, the Huskies devoted their time to the future. Freshmen saw the bulk of practice time over the weekend, while little-used backups like Bronson, safety Greg Walker and cornerback Anthony Boyles got as much significant action as they’ve had since fall camp.
“It feels good to get out there and run around,” said wide receiver Kevin Smith, whose game action has been sparse this season even though he was one of about a dozen true freshmen to play in the Apple Cup nine days ago. “The coaches are giving us the opportunity to show what we can do, and we’re building trust in them, so they can trust us to go out and play.”
Sunday’s scrimmage was a bit of a reward for the backups, although Bronson certainly didn’t feel like it when freshman linebacker Garret Gilliland drilled him at the end of a short run. The hit left the 221-pound running back on the field for several minutes while trainers attended to him.
Bronson eventually got back on the field and scored the only two touchdowns of the scrimmage – on a 6-yard sweep and a 2-yard dive up the middle.
The session was mostly dominated by the defenses. Price was intercepted twice, by Gilliland and freshman safety Taz Stevenson, while Boyles set off the biggest celebration of the day when he picked off a Montana pass and made a nice return.
After the session, Sarkisian singled out Stevenson, Smith and linebacker Victor Burnett as the players who stuck out the most.
Rather than put his veteran players through a weekend of practices, Sarkisian mostly gave them three days off while the younger teammates showed their stuff.
“We get an idea of where they’re at, physically and mentally, with what we do and how we do it,” Sarkisian said of his evaluations over the past three days.
Senior cornerback Vonzell McDowell Jr. has played his final game at UW. Surgery on his left knee left McDowell on crutches this week, and Sarkisian said he won’t be available for the Holiday Bowl. … Among the veterans who saw some practice time over the weekend was sophomore defensive end Talia Crichton, who is trying to come back from a midseason knee injury. “He’s coming,” Sarkisian said. “He’s progressing the way we liked. I think we’ll get more work out of him Thursday as well.”