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University of Washington Huskies Football

Jedd Fisch, Huskies celebrate spring game with former players, fans

QB Demond Williams Jr. looks for a passing lane in UW’s spring football game.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
By Andy Yamashita Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Seated in the south grandstand of Husky Stadium as the wind began to whip around the lower bowl, John Jung is trying to pass on a tradition.

Jung, a lifelong Washington football fan, hopes to instill his love for the Huskies in his children Fitzgerald and Fiona, handing them a passion he hopes they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Jung’s also physically handing his kids popcorn, trying to keep them entertained as they wait for Washington’s spring game to start.

“I did this growing up as a kid,” Jung said. “So I wanted to continue that legacy as Husky fans.”

Washington played its spring game on an overcast Friday evening at Husky Stadium. Coach Jedd Fisch split the team into two squads, one led by fifth-year quarterback Will Rogers and the other with true freshman Demond Williams Jr. The purple team, helmed by Rogers, won 24-23 on a walk-off field goal by junior kicker Grady Gross.

Rogers was 14 for 25 for 154 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Junior wide receiver Denzel Boston hauled in seven catches for 127 yards.

“It was fun to compete,” Fisch said. “Went all the way down to the end.”

Former Washington players Danny Shelton, Jake Locker, Shaq Thompson and Lincoln Kennedy all served as honorary captains, while Vita Vea was present to sound the siren. Yet the former player who received the biggest ovation was clearly Michael Penix Jr., the 2023 Heisman Trophy runner-up who was selected with the eighth overall pick of the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons on April 25.

The changes to Washington’s spring game helped draw a decent crowd, as 18,488 fans showed up at Husky Stadium.

The total turnout was likely far below Fisch’s goal of 40,000 fans, which he stated before spring practices started. It was bigger than past iterations of the event under previous coaching staffs.

Not all Washington fans were ecstatic about the changes to the spring game.

Rich Ewing and Ron Thorneycroft have been Washington fans since the 1970s, and regularly attend the spring game.

They’re Bellingham natives, and the evening event’s 6:30 p.m. kickoff means they likely won’t get home until around midnight.

Thorneycroft also noted Friday traffic makes it more difficult to get to Husky Stadium than it might’ve been on a Saturday.

Ewing and Thorneycroft are more than willing to move past any gripes they might have about the time if Washington has a good season under Fisch.

Former coach Kalen DeBoer’s abrupt departure days after the Huskies played in the College Football Playoff championship game was a disheartening experience, Ewing said, but he’s happy with Fisch’s hiring and the staff he’s brought with him from Arizona.

“If they win eight games, I’ll be really happy,” Ewing said.

As for the game itself, neither team had particularly exciting first-half performances. Williams finished the game 7 for 17 for 42 yards. He also threw an interception to senior cornerback Thaddeus Dixon, overthrowing a slant to his right intended for true freshman wide receiver Audric Harris while operating a two-minute drill.

“Whenever you go out there, you’re out there to compete at the highest level,” sixth-year safety Kamren Fabiculanan, who was on the purple team, said.

Dixon returned the interception 42 yards for a touchdown for the purple team.

Their other touchdown was a 4-yard rush by true freshman Adam Mohammed, set up by a 41-yard pass down the left sideline by walk-on quarterback Teddy Purcell to junior wide receiver Denzel Boston.

Rogers didn’t fare too much better than Williams in the first half. He played just one drive before halftime. Rogers led the Huskies inside the 5-yard line, but a miscommunication with Boston on a fade to the left corner led to an interception by Ephesians Prysock.

But the former Mississippi State quarterback didn’t waste any time in the second half.

He connected with Boston for 24 yards, then threw a pass to walk-on receiver Camden Sirmon across the middle for 19 yards three plays later. Rogers found Boston again from 28 yards out, this time for a touchdown.

Williams threw his first touchdown of the game in response, hitting former California wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter from five yards out in the left corner of the end zone.

They connected again on the 2-point conversion a play later, with Hunter hauling in a fade over junior defensive back Darren Barkins.

The game ended with both teams on the field, surrounding Gross as he prepared to attempt a 29-yard field goal for the purple team which were trailing by one point. Just like he did against Washington State during the 2023 season, Gross nailed his kick, triggering a purple light show and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”

“Really excited about how we ended spring,” Fisch said. “Now we’ve got a lot of work to do when it comes down to this summer.”