BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 10/09/2014

Huskies’ Ross: Big plays becoming hallmark

UW sophomore John Ross already has five touchdowns of 50+ yards in his Washington career, four shy of Hugh McElhenny’s school record of nine.

John Ross caught a 91-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Lindquist in Washington’s victory over Hawaii in the season opener. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Monday night at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., Percy Harvin of the Seahawks had the unprecedented experience of watching three of his touchdowns called back due to penalties: A 19-yard run in the second quarter (holding) and back-to-back receptions of 26 (false start) and 41 yards (unnecessary roughness) in the fourth. The last one left Harvin shaking his head.

“Well, the first one I was cool with,” Harvin said. “I was like, ‘OK.’ Then when the second one happened, I was like, ‘Wow.’ And then when the third one happened, I just flipped my hands down. I couldn’t believe it.”

If any player can remotely relate to Harvin’s frustration, it would be John Ross, a University of Washington fly guy built along Harvin lines: 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and equipped with Harvin-like 4.2 speed.

In the early going of Washington’s 44-19 victory over Illinois Sept. 13 at Husky Stadium, Ross had a 100-yard kickoff return TD called back due to an illegal block. Two weeks later, in the Huskies’ 20-13 loss to Stanford, Ross had another 100-yard kickoff return TD nullified. Another illegal block erased the play.

Had either 100-yard return counted, Ross would stand alone in the UW record books for most career 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. The only other player with a 100-hard KOR TD: Paul Arnold (1999-02), who had his in 1999 against Air Force.

Ross had his only 100-yarder that counted in December’s Fight Hunger Bowl against Brigham Young. Even though two since have been called back, evidence suggests we haven’t seen the last big play out of the Long Beach, CA., sophomore.

Although his was lost in an avalanche of eight Husky touchdowns, Ross formally introduced himself to UW fans in the third quarter of last year’s 56-0 rout of Idaho State at Husky Stadium. At 6:12 of the third quarter, Ross snatched a pass from Cyler Miles, mopping up for Keith Price, and took it 57 yards for a touchdown.

To his 100-yard kickoff return against BYU and that 57-yard TD reception against Idaho State, Ross this year has added a 91-yard TD catch against Hawaii, a 75-yard TD catch against Illinois and a 55-yard TD reception vs. Eastern Washington.

That gives Ross five touchdowns on plays of 50 yards or longer in 16 career games, the same number Joe Steele (1976-79), Napoleon Kaufman (1991-94) and Paul Arnold (1999-02) produced in four years each. In 125 years of Husky football, only four players had more 50-yard TD plays than Ross:

Player Pos. Career No. Long Touchdown Play
Hugh McElhenny FB 1949-51 9 100-yard punt return vs. USC, 1951
Spider Gaines WR 1975-78 7 78-yard reception vs WSU, 1975
Beno Bryant RB 1989-93 7 82-yard punt return vs. ASU, 1990
Reggie Williams WR 2001-03 6 89-yard catch vs. San Jose St., 2002
Joe Steele RB 1976-79 5 89-yard kickoff return vs. UCLA, 1976
Napoleon Kaufman RB 1991-94 5 91-yard run vs. San Jose St., 1994
Paul Arnold WR 1999-02 5 100-yard KOR vs. Air Force, 1999
Charles Frederick WR 2001-04 5 87-yard punt return vs Idaho, 2001
John Ross WR 2013-14 5 100-yard KOR vs. BYU, 2013
Charlie Mitchell RB 1960-62 4 90-yard KOR vs. UCLA, 1961
Dave Williams TE 1964-66 4 70-yard catch vs. Oregon, 1965
Jermaine Kearse WR 2008-11 4 80-yard reception vs. Baylor, 2011
Chris Polk RB 2009-11 4 70-yard catch vs. California, 2011

Hugh McElhenny: The 100-yard punt return vs. USC is still the conference record. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame, McElhenny is the only player in UW history with three 90-yard scoring plays (Ross is second with two). In addition to the punt return, McElhenny had a 96-yard kickoff return against Minnesota in 1949 and a 91-yard run against Kansas State in 1950.

Spider Gaines: All of Gaines’ 50+-yard TD plays came on pass receptions from either Warren Moon or Tom Porras. The 78-yard TD from Moon was the winning play in the 1975 Apple Cup. Gaines produced two of his big plays against Alabama in 1978, catching TD passes from Porras of 74 and 58 yards in Washington’s 20-17 loss.

Beno Bryant: The leading rusher (981 yards, eight TDs) on Washington’s 1991 co-national champions, Bryant recorded four of his seven 50-yard scoring plays on punt returns. In addition to the 82-yarder against Arizona State, he had a 70-yarder against Arizona in 1990, a 53-yarder against Kansas State in 1991 and a 52-yarder against San Jose State in 1990.

Reggie Williams: Like Gaines, all of Williams’ long scoring plays came on passes. Cody Pickett threw five of the six, including the longest. Casey Paus threw the other, a 63-yarder against Oregon in 2002.

Joe Steele: Steele, who scored 37 touchdowns in his career (No. 2 all-time behind George Wilson’s 38), tallied four of his five 50+-yard scoring plays on runs: 83 against Stanford, 1977; 72 vs. Oregon, 1976; 69 vs. Fresno State, 1979; 63 vs. San Jose State, 1977.

Napoleon Kaufman: All of Kaufman’s long scoring plays came on runs except for a 65-yard punt return against Stanford in 1992. Kaufman scored 34 touchdowns during his Husky career, with a single-season best of 14 in 1993.

Paul Arnold: Three of Arnold’s 50+-yard plays came on passes from Pickett and a fourth came on an 80-yard run against Washington State in the 1999 Apple Cup.

Charles Frederick: Two of Frederick’s long plays came against Oregon State in 2003 when he scored on an 87-yard pass from Pickett and on an 86-yard punt return. In that game, a 38-17 Washington win, Frederick produced a school-record 371 all-purpose yards, 216 of them receiving.

Charlie Mitchell: A member of Washington’s 1961 Rose Bowl team and the school’s leading receiver in 1962, Mitchell had his most notable performance in the Huskies’ 41-12 victory over Idaho in 1960, scoring on an 85-yard kickoff return and on an 85-yard run.

Dave Williams: Recently selected for induction into the Husky Hall of Fame, Williams tallied two of his four long TD plays – receptions of 56 and 50 yards from Tod Hullin – in one quarter against UCLA in 1965. That was the game in which Williams set a still-standing school record of 257 receiving yards.

Jermaine Kearse: The future Seahawk’s longest play came on a pass from Keith Price in the 2011 Alamo Bowl against Baylor. Two of Kearse’s long plays occurred in the Apple Cup: 66 yards from Jake Locker in 2010 and 50 yards from Locker in 2009.

Chris Polk: Two of Polk’s long scoring plays also came in the Apple Cup, a 61-yard run in 2011 and a 57-yard run in 2010. In the 2010 game, Polk rushed for 284 yards, second-most in UW history behind McElhenny’s 296 against the Cougars in 1950.



  • JoSchmo

    Cyler was suspended for Hawaii so I do not think he threw the touchdown in the photo.

    • sportspressnw

      Thank you for catching that. Fixed.

  • jafabian

    JR is fast becoming the Harvin of the Huskies, being that kind of a gamebreaker for them. Really hoping he doesn’t turn pro early. He’s as fun to watch as it was to see Beno play.

  • Schaefdawg

    The Huskies will certainly need Mr. Ross to put his talents to use against the Bears. Getting off to a fast start may be critical for the Dawgs to win in Berserkly this weekend.