Richard Newton was in uniform and seemingly ready to play on Saturday night against California, but the University of Washington running back never stirred from the sideline.
Fans and media members, who similarly saw him sit out two games last season for what was described as a coaching decision, assumed the worst.
Was the 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore from Lancaster, California, in arrears with the Jimmy Lake staff again?
On Monday, Lake said his three-game starter this season didn't play against the Bears because of an undisclosed injury, but he expected Newton back for Saturday night's Oregon State game.
"He was definitely banged up," the coach said. "We had to limit him in practice all week long. He was going to be more of an emergency option for us."
Even after missing the Cal game, Newton remains the Huskies' leading rusher with 138 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries. Next up is sixth-year senior Sean McGrew, who opened against Cal in the other guy's place and has rushed 22 times for 84 yards and 4 TDs.
Husky cornerback Trent McDuffie and tight end Cade Otton, two of the team's more prominent players, didn't take part in the Pac-12 opener either and their availability this week is unclear, though Otton appears unlikely to make it back because of pandemic contact tracing protocols.
Lake lost McDuffie against Arkansas State to an injury on a punt return and was asked whether he second-guessed himself for using his sophomore all-conference defensive back as a special-teamer.
The answer was no.
"We play our best players on special teams and that will always be the case," Lake said. "He's a threat back there as a returner. We're trying to win football games. Our players know this that the first question we get asked when the NFL scouts come around is, 'Does so-and-so play special teams.' Special teams is a huge part of the game. We make a huge emphasis on it. Our players fight to get on special teams."
As for McDuffie's return, Lake was coy, smiling and saying week to week multiple times.
Starting nickelback Bookie Radley-Hiles, the Oklahoma transfer, left the Cal game late with some sort of injury and had to be replaced by redshirt freshman Kamren Fabiculanan. Lake was hopeful he would have Radley-Hiles ready for the Oregon State game.
"We're hoping to get him back here and probably will," the coach said.
Lastly, Lake was asked about the potential return for sophomore edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui, who's coming off an Achilles tendon ruptured in spring practice and subsequent surgery.
The first-team All-Pac-12 player remains well ahead of schedule for the 6- to 10-month recovery for his injury, according to his coach, who wouldn't be specific about a return date.
All along, it's been a good bet that ZTF will be ready, if not before, for the Oregon game in Seattle on November 6.
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