Even though Kasen Williams’ role had diminished because of how Washington was running its offense, he was still the main wide receiver every opposing defense had to account for.
If Washington is going to make a late-season charge following its October swoon, the Huskies will have to do it with Williams on the sideline.
"We’ve got good depth at the position," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. "We’ll miss him because he’s a great player but we’ve got good depth."
Williams is expected to miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a fracture in his lower left leg and an injury to his left foot in Saturday’s win over California. Williams was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday afternoon and have surgery to repair the injury on Tuesday.
Sarkisian said the team won’t know how long Williams will be out until after the surgery. Sarkisian noted late Saturday night that Williams had suffered a dislocation as well, but he did not specify if that was the foot injury. Williams moved around on crutches and with his left leg in a large cast on Sunday at the memorial service for former Washington coach Don James.
Sarkisian didn’t rule out the chance that Williams could be back for a bowl game but didn’t want to talk specifics until after the surgery.
"To Kasen’s credit he’s in good spirits, he came to coach James’ service yesterday, he was with the team today," Sarkisian said. "He’ll take it like a champion. He’ll do whatever we need him to do to get healthy and he’ll get back."
Williams was injured in the second quarter against the Golden Bears. Williams had to slow down and jump to try to haul in an underthrown deep pass. As he came down, Wililams’ left leg was pinned underneath his body by the defensive back. He was helped off the field and was later taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but had returned to the stadium before the game ended.
Williams was the Huskies’ leading receiver last year with 77 receptions for 878 yards and six touchdowns. He had become less of a factor in the Huskies offense this year because of the new up-tempo pace Washington had used and the attention he’s received from opposing defenses. Williams had just 29 catches for 321 yards and one touchdown before getting injured.
That’s created opportunities for Jaydon Mickens and Kevin Smith, who have 75 combined receptions and seven of the Huskies’ 17 touchdowns receptions. Mickens had the best day of his college career on Saturday with six receptions for 180 yards and touchdowns of 68 and 47 yards.
Most of Mickens’ receptions had come near the line of scrimmage as the Huskies used him on many of their quick screens to the perimeter. His game against the Bears was the first time Washington had pushed him downfield with success.
"We had some pretty favorable matchups with him one-on-one with safeties," Sarkisian said. "Jaydon can really run. We’ve seen that in the short game, but he got opportunities down the field on these safeties one-on-one."
Washington will get two weeks to figure out how to replace Williams. The Huskies have their second bye of the season this week before hosting Colorado on Nov. 9. The real test of how well Washington’s pass game can adjust will come in the final three weeks when the Huskies face road games at UCLA and Oregon State before hosting Washington State in the Apple Cup.
If Bishop Sankey continues to run as he did against California, the pass game may not be needed. Sankey ran for a career-high 241 yards and two scores and moved back into third place nationally averaging 145.3 yards per game. If Sankey continues this pace, he’ll better Corey Dillon’s school record of 1,695 yards set in 1996.