Huskies taking advantage of big plays

Washington wide receiver John Ross, center, is tackled by Illinois defensive back Taylor Barton (3) and linebacker T.J. Neal Jr. (52) in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren

SEATTLE (AP) If there's anything the Washington Huskies have proven through the season's first three games, it's that they have the ability to make big plays.

John Ross is the prime example. The speedster wide receiver already has three touchdown receptions longer than 55 yards. Ross has had the ball in his hands 17 times this season and gained 465 all-purpose yards (27.4 yards per touch). That includes a 75-yard touchdown reception last Saturday in the Huskies' 44-19 win over Illinois, but doesn't include a 100-yard kickoff return in the same game that was negated by a penalty.

''Speed kills, as you guys saw with John Ross on that deep ball,'' said receiver Jaydon Mickens, referring to the 75-yard touchdown play. ''Speed kills and we just need to keep doing what we're doing.''

The Huskies (3-0) have averaged 51.5 points per game during their last two games after managing just 17 in the opener at Hawaii. Although Ross hauled in a 91-yard score against the Rainbow Warriors, the increased potency is noticeable with the return of quarterback Cyler Miles from a one-game suspension.

The biggest improvement, though, is the Washington defense. A week removed from allowing 52 points and more than 500 yards to Eastern Washington, the Huskies shut down Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt and came away with three turnovers.

Linebacker Shaq Thompson had two of those, and turned both into big plays. The Pac-12 defensive player of the week scored on a fumble recovery and an interception in the win over Illinois.

''We made some changes, we made some coverage adjustments, those types of things to mix some things up and help our guys out a little bit,'' Washington coach Chris Petersen said. ''We got three turnovers and scored on two of them, that's not going to happen every week. A little bit the ball bouncing our way, a little bit the guys getting better, a little bit coaching maybe helped some things out.''

Washington will need to continue to create big plays if it wants to stay undefeated. Even with Stanford on the horizon, players made it abundantly clear Monday that Saturday's game against Georgia State should not be viewed as a tuneup.

Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle is averaging 373.7 yards passing per game and has led the Panthers to the top two offensive games, in terms of yards, in school history.

''All you got to do is put the tape on and watch him throw for 400 yards and watch him throw some balls like what happened to us a couple weeks ago,'' Petersen said. ''There were some unbelievable throws he made this last week.

''He threw about four or five passes in there that I'm like, `wow,' about this last game. I haven't seen us throw any like that.''

The Huskies should receive a boost in the secondary with the return of junior cornerback Marcus Peters from a one-game suspension that stemmed from a sideline tantrum after being flagged for a personal foul. Petersen declined to say if Peters would remain a starter.

His return will be a welcome sight for a young group that just saw their depth take a hit Monday when cornerback Jermaine Kelly underwent surgery for a fractured ankle.

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