Look no further than mundane practice habits.
Quietly Jermaine Kearse explained with generalities his superlative performance on Saturday night.
The junior wide receiver spoke of his nine-catch, 179-yard, three-touchdown torching of Syracuse in muted tones. He chose rather short answers. He spent the day more interested in YAC than yakking.
Saturday was not a day of seams and go routes for Kearse. He came across the middle or motioned to the sideline for quick outs and bubble screens. The Lakes product blasted through arm tackles and received gracious blocking from his fellow receivers.
Two reasons Kearse’s verbiage was subtle: one, he’s just not a big talker. Two, when he did talk, he was referring to practice.
We all have heard from Allen Iverson practice is not an intriguing talking point. Particularly in this case. Kearse referred to “finishing” in practice over and over on Saturday night.
What he’s talking about is the seemingly innocuous continued running when a play is whistled dead at Washington practices. There’s no big hitting, rather players just spend their time trying to wrapup the ball carrier.
It’s a ho-hum part of practice to the viewer. But every ball carrier is screamed at, encouragingly of course, to keep going when wrapped up. They spin out of arms or turn to push through them. There’s an extra 15 yards gobbled up against ghost defenders, then a u-turn back to the huddle.
That’s part of the reason this was a package deal on Saturday night. Yes, Kearse was outstanding. He’s broadened his game from just a jump ball maestro to a full-field force.
But his success against Syracuse came from a confluence of parts. The work in practice (incidentally, Washington defenders practice punching the ball out while standing still and during those extra-efforts by ball carriers). The play calling, much maligned last week. Lastly, togetherness among the receivers. Without these Kearse isn’t a headline for anyone covering the game.
Another benefit of practice for Kearse is Desmond Trufant. He’s good. He’s also mouthy. They got into it in fall camp. Not sort of, they did. There is no other corner on the team that could give Kearse trouble. Trufant does and Kearse is better for it.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Trufant said about Kearse’s game. “Jermaine, he’s a great receiver. He’s going to be one of the best in the nation in my opinion by the end of the year.”
After being outcoached in the first week, Washington head man Steve Sarkisian exploited Syracuse’s one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach. The Orange left the same spots open throughout Saturday. Sarkisian ran three specific plays, one a run, two passes, three times apiece. The moving pictures he watched all week turned out to tell truths.
“We had game planned that and seen it on film,” Kearse said. “We just motion me across either way, they were going to bring a safety. Then just threw it to the flag.”
Once the ball was out quickly, the half-hearted blocking from the receivers last week was not around. Devin Aguilar and D’Andre Goodwin chopped down and pushed out defenders on Saturday. That left Kearse to fight through arm tackles.
“(Aguilar) made a huge block on his one run,” Washington quarterback Jake Locker said. “On the little swing pass he had blocks from (Aguilar) and D’Andre and those goes are playing very unselfishly.
“They’re playing for each other and they’re playing for this football team and it showed tonight. That’s the reason he scored on those plays.”
Practice, the plan and the playmaker. A lethal trio.
“I’m not complacent with it,” Kearse said of his huge night. “It will do for now.”