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Sports >  UW football

The Sam Huard-Lonyatta Alexander Jr. connection lives on at UW’s ‘Spring Preview’ scrimmage

UPDATED: Sat., April 30, 2022

Washington quarterback Sam Huard (7) looks to pass during a spring NCAA college football scrimmage Saturday, April 30, 2022 in Seattle, Wash.   (Associated Press)
Washington quarterback Sam Huard (7) looks to pass during a spring NCAA college football scrimmage Saturday, April 30, 2022 in Seattle, Wash.  (Associated Press)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Sam Huard and Lonyatta Alexander Jr. have been here before.

On Sept. 2, 2017, the Kennedy Catholic freshmen played their first prep game inside Husky Stadium – earning a 30-20 victory over Seattle Prep. Huard threw for 359 yards and a touchdown in the win, while Alexander recorded 13 catches for 209 yards.

Almost five years later, Huard approached Alexander – who transferred from Arizona State this offseason – before the Huskies’ “Spring Preview.”

“This is kind of something similar,” the redshirt freshman quarterback said.

Huard didn’t yet know how true that was.

In perhaps his most impressive display since arriving at UW last spring, Huard completed 12 of 19 passes and threw for 167 yards and a touchdown Saturday – with Alexander again his most productive target. Near the end of the scrimmage, Huard took a snap, looked left and unfurled a floating deep ball that Alexander pulled in with his left hand along the sideline for a 37-yard gain.

“It was kind of a little overthrown, so I knew if I put my hand out to go catch it I was going to catch it,” Alexander said. “I felt the confidence. I felt the game slowing down as the ball was in the air. As soon as I felt the ball touch my hand I squeezed just a little bit, just to hold on to it and come down with it.”The 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver spun the ball, flexed and stomped up the field.

He had returned to Husky Stadium – the scene of prep debuts and spring previews.

Better late than never.

“I kind of had a bad experience (as a true freshman at Arizona State in 2021), but it was also kind of a learning experience for me as well – living on my own, what it’s like doing that,” he said. “Being able to come back home and feel love still from Husky fans, from my family, from Sam and his family, my teammates and everything, it felt amazing,” Alexander said

“To be out there in front of all the Husky fans, I kind of dropped a tear before I came (out). Because I was like, ‘I should have been here a long time ago.’”

Huard, for one, is happy that he’s home. A few plays later, the pair reconnected on a tightly contested 9-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.

“Personally, not to toot my own horn or anything, but when the ball’s in the air I was always taught to be aggressive and go get it and not to be a receiver. Be a taker,” said Alexander, who has dealt with a strained hip flexor at times this spring. “Whenever I see that ball in the air, I got to make sure to come down with it. It’s not something I’m really taught. It’s kind of natural for me.”

Huard is a natural passer – but he didn’t start as a true freshman this time around. The 6-2, 194-pounder and Washington’s all-time leading prep passer watched the majority of UW’s 4-8 season with a headset where a helmet should be. He made his first career start in the 40-13 Apple Cup loss to Washington State, completing 17 of 31 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.

Despite receiving equal reps, Huard appeared to run third behind Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. and Morris this spring.

But Huard’s performance Saturday – which head coach Kalen DeBoer called “one of his best days” – might reintroduce a third contender to the competition.

“You see the old connection with him and Junior Alexander. That’s kind of fun to see. That was great,” DeBoer said. “Even the ones that weren’t completed, he was doing a good job of going through progressions and not overanalyzing. We’ve had some great talks going through the spring and in the last week, just, ‘Hey, this is how we want to finish.’ I’ve done that with the other quarterbacks as well, but it was good to see. I was proud of him.”

Penix – who took the first snap with the starters – completed 13 of 19 passes for 209 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Morris completed 3 of 12 passes for 53 yards.

One thing is certain: Washington has not settled on a starting quarterback.

“Don’t read between the lines too much on (the quarterback depth chart),” DeBoer said. “I know it sounds like I’m trying to keep it too close to the vest. It’s just honestly, we aren’t in a position yet where we want to name a starter.

“We want that (competition) to continue on through the summer.”

As for other significant contributors, wide receiver Rome Odunze registered four catches for 63 yards – the highlight being a tightrope walk along the sideline in which he eluded Davon Banks, Jordan Lolohea and Makell Esteen en route to a 38-yard score. New Mexico tailback transfer Aaron Dumas added a 1-yard touchdown plunge, while cornerback Mishael Powell and safety Alex Cook each notched interceptions.

With an elaborate and arguably nonsensical scoring system, the offense defeated the defense 34-29.

But for once inside this stadium, the score didn’t matter.

That won’t be the case Sept. 3 against Kent State.

“It was just going out there and playing free,” Huard said. “After spring ball, a lot of work’s put in, and then today we just had an opportunity to play in front of the fans. It was a beautiful day just to be able to go out there and play free and have fun. I just felt good and relaxed out there, let my guys around me make plays and tried to spread the ball around and make plays and do my job.”

Speaking of jobs: Huard is juggling more than one. Near the end of an interview scrum with Alexander on Saturday, the redshirt freshman quarterback joined media members to ask an extra question.

“Did you really need to only use one hand on that (37-yard catch)?” he asked. “I think you could have got it with two. I think you just wanted to show off for the fans.”

With a smile, Alexander conceded the point to his high school – and college – quarterback.

“Yeah, I wanted to give the fans a little bit of juice, and I wanted to be on SportsCenter.”

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