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Wildcats and Dawgs: First Newton, Then McGrew Runs It Well

Direct-snap offense to selected running back pays dividends for Huskies.
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Late on Saturday night and having battled to a draw, the University of Washington and California football teams entered overtime and it was Huskies against Bears — in a game that would be decided by the Wildcat.

Cat, Dawgs, carnivores. Call it Animal House, the sequel.

The extra session began with UW quarterback Dylan Morris taking a shotgun snap and running three conventional plays, picking up a first down with a 15-yard pass to running back Kamari Pleasant to put the ball on the Cal 4.

At the most important juncture of the game, the Huskies sent Morris to the sideline to watch the rest of the drive. 

That left 5-foot-7, 180-pound tailback Sean McGrew to work alone.

He set up in the Wildcat, the recipient of a direct snap to a non-quarterback.

"The scheme gives teams a lot of defenses problems," UW coach Jimmy Lake said, selling its virtues.

Depending on how anyone else looked at it, this was either a huge gamble on what some consider a gimmick formation or a brazen invitation to get physical with everything on the line.

Considering that the Huskies opened the season with two weeks of dreadful offense, it qualified as a risky move.

The first snap wasn't promising. 

Offensive guard Julius Buelow jumped prematurely with someone new calling the signals, moving the football back to the Cal 9.

However, Morris didn't stir from the sideline. The Huskies stayed with the Wildcat.

They dared Cal to hang with them in the trenches.

McGrew received the snap, smacked into the line and ran for 4 yards. Then 3 yards. Finally, he went over the right side for 2 yards and flopped into the end zone to eventually win this one 31-24. 

Tight end Devin Culp congratulates Sean McGrew after his touchdown run.

Devin Culp congratulates Sean McGrew after a touchdown run against Cal. 

"Sean, as a running back, is very slippery," Lake said. "He knows how to set up blocks. He knows how to hit pause, hit go, hit pause, hit go. He gives us a tremendous boost."

McGrew had even had a warm-up, complete with a touchdown reward.

In the second quarter, the little guy took a Wildcat snap and scored from 5 yards out to help put the Huskies in front 21-7.

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He likes this new role. 

"I'm actually so comfortable, I wish we could call some pass plays so I could throw the ball to somebody, because it's fun," McGrew said while tapping his right shoulder. "I've got a cannon right here."

Sean McGrew runs through the Cal defense.

Sean McGrew picks a short gainer against Cal. 

Actually, a UW team running the Wildcat to perfection is hardly anything new. It's been part of the playbook dating back nearly 100 years.

From 1923 to '25, George "Wildcat" Wilson was near unstoppable while taking a direct snap more often than not as a Husky running back. He rushed and passed the ball equally well. 

A 5-foot-11, 200-pounder from Everett, Washington, Wilson was considered big for the times and he became the Huskies' initial first-team All-American and pro football player, and he led the UW to its first pair of Rose Bowls. 

As for the more diminutive McGrew, a sixth-year senior and a fan favorite, he sat out the UW's first two games. He made his season debut against Arkansas State, coming off the bench to rush for 2 TDs, before earning the start and scoring twice more against Cal.

He replaced Richard Newton, who opened the first three games as the first-teamer, but didn't play a down against the Bears. 

Besides McGrew, the Huskies also handed the ball off to 6-foot, 205-pound redshirt freshman Cam Davis and the 6-foot, 225-pound Pleasant, another sixth-year senior. 

Newton just watched. 

While some feared that Newton was benched again for whatever reason, Lake said at his Monday press briefing the 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore from Lancaster, California, was held out because he was injured, though available if an emergency arose.

Newton has scored many of his 13 career UW touchdowns by taking a direct snap.

The Huskies need both Newton and McGrew in moving forward, to take advantage of their different running styles, to keep opponents guessing.

The power guy and the quick guy.

Yet they're similar in that they've missed games because of difficult coaching decisions and been able to bounce back.

Oh, and there's one more thing

They both run that Wildcat to perfection now.

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