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Huskies Need a Return to Glory — They Haven't Scored on a Kickoff Since 2016

Giles Jackson is waiting in the wings, ready to make it happen.

Keishawn Bierria, normally a University of Washington inside linebacker, collected the Arizona State onside kick, shot through a fragmented line of Sun Devils without much trouble and didn't stop running until he reached the end zone 45 yards away. 

That was 2016 and the last kickoff return turned into a Husky touchdown covering six seasons, 60 games and 99 returns.

Yes, the Huskies are way overdue for another, especially when considering they've had Michigan transfer Giles Jackson idling on the roster like some high-performance race car for 13 months now.

Another one of the more confounding developments for Jimmy Lake's two UW teams was the inability to come up with a touchdown runback on a kickoff, punt or interception and just one on a fumble.

This used to be a glorious Husky trademark. 

From 2013 to 2017, the UW scored 32 times on the various kinds of runbacks — with Dante Pettis setting an NCAA record with 9 punt returns for scores and John Ross and Shaq Thompson supplying a school-record 4 kickoffs and 3 fumble recoveries for instant points, respectively.

In the four seasons since, the Huskies have just 5 returns for scores. 

During Lake's time in charge, the UW came up with just one of those adrenaline-boosting and momentum-changing plays in 2020 and 2021 — Bralen Trice's lumbering 72-yard fumble return for a TD last September against Arkansas State.

The Huskies just couldn't spring Jackson loose, this after he arrived with a track record of electric 95- and 97-yard Big Ten scoring returns for the Wolverines. 

The 5-foot-9, 177-pound speedster from Antioch, California, threatened to go the distance just one time in 19 returns last year for the UW, momentarily breaking free for a 43-yarder against Oregon. That was it.

While some of this is just plain luck when it comes to kickoffs, the onus also falls on the coaching staff for having the right personnel on the field to open some holes or to even introduce a clever scheme that might require a misdirection handoff, anything to get someone like Jackson into the open spaces. 

In their history, the Huskies have had 25 kickoff returns go for touchdowns {see the list below}. Bierria's was the shortest for a score. Three have covered 100 yards, two by Ross. Two guys named Mitchell, Allen and Steele each have popped a long one or two for points. So did a player named McElhenny.

Jackson currently is the Huskies' fastest player with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He's got his back history of bringing people out of their seats and flying by opposing players on the way to goal-line glory unheeded. 

With Kalen DeBoer preaching that all of his UW units will be explosive and in a perpetual attack mode, figure that the new coach has a decent chance of sending Jackson from end zone to end zone and breaking that kickoff scoring drought fairly soon. 

Tomorrow: Husky punt returns. 


100 — John Ross, 2014, UCLA

100 — John Ross, 2013, BYU

100 — Paul Arnold, 1999, Air Force

99 — Anthony Allen, 1979, Pittsburgh

99 — Jim Krieg, 1971, TCU

98 — Toure Butler, 1998, BYU

98 — George Guttormsen, 1924, Whitman

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97 — Jim Krieg, 1970, California

96 — John Ross, 2014, Oklahoma State

96 — Hugh McElhenny, 1949, Minnesota

95 — Roc Alexander, 2001, Idaho

95 — Kyle Stevens, 1979, Utah

95 — Jim Krieg, 1970, Stanford

92 — John Ross, 2016, Rutgers

91 — Jim Jones, 1957, Minnesota 

90 — Steve Bramwell, 1963, Air Force

90 — Charlie Mitchell, 1960, UCLA 

90 — Hugh Beckett, 1925, Whitman

89 — Louis Rankin, 2007, Washington State

89 — Ja'Warren Hooker, 1997, Arizona

89 — Joe Steele, 1976, UCLA

87 — Sam Mitchell, 1952, Idaho

87 — Ernie Steele, 1940, Washington State

85 — Charlie Mitchell, 1960, Idaho

60 — Chuck Allen, 1959, Colorado

45 — Keishawn Bierria, 2016, Arizona State

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