University of Washington

Aaron Fuller’s punt return touchdown in Huskies’ win was a long time coming

In the first seconds after Aaron Fuller stepped into the end zone, he was terrified.

Fuller had just scored on an 88-yard punt return, but all he could focus on was the yellow flag on the field a few yards behind him.

It was there in his body language. He turned after reaching the back of the end zone, expecting to celebrate with his teammates. But as Alex Cook excitedly jumped toward him, Fuller spotted the flag on the ground. He stopped cold, throwing his head back in frustration. The only thing going through his mind was this: Wow, the one time I get it all the way back it gets called back.

But the penalty was on BYU, and the official quickly waved it off. The touchdown — the first off a punt return in Fuller’s career — stood. Once it was confirmed, Fuller could finally enjoy it.

“It’s always great getting the first one,” Fuller said. “I was broken down a bit after a year and a half (without a touchdown) and then finally getting one. It was all set up by great blocks. If you go back and look, there were two amazing blocks.”

It was a long-time coming for Fuller. Head coach Chris Petersen knew that. Asked about the play after the game, Petersen talked about how frustrated he’s been for his senior wide receiver. Fuller returned 31 punts in his career, including 22 last season, before he scored a touchdown.

“I think he’s really good,” Petersen said. “I think he’s super courageous. He’s very sure-handed. He’s like everything you want in a punt returner. We just got to give the guy a little room. We’ve been waiting for that. He’s been waiting for that. I think the credit should first go to the guys in front of him. Give him a little space and some good blocking, and he’ll find it. He can do some good things.”

Fuller did a lot of good things in the 45-19 victory over the Cougars, finishing with a team-high eight receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback Jacob Eason found him for UW’s second touchdown when he fired a 17-yard laser into traffic in the end zone. Fuller was immediately hit by BYU defensive back Austin Lee, but he absorbed it and held onto the ball. He seemed to stare Lee down for a moment after the reception, an observation he mostly denied with a grin after the game.

“I think more than anything, I was just tired,” Fuller said. “With the elevation and one of the first drives, I was out of breath. It was out of tiredness more than anything.”

That was about the only moment Fuller looked tired on Saturday. He caught bullets from Eason in traffic. He broke tackles. He increased his touchdown total for the season to five. Fuller had four touchdowns in all of 2018. Entering this season, he had seven for his career. Four games into the season, he’s nearly matched that number.

Fuller wasn’t the only receiver making plays. Andre Baccellia caught four passes for 72 yards and a 35-yard touchdown. Tight end Hunter Bryant finished with four receptions for 49 yards, while tight end Cade Otton caught two passes for 36 yards.

Two weeks after the receivers were criticized for a slew of dropped passes against Cal, Saturday looked a lot like redemption.

“We played pretty solid,” Fuller said. “I think there’s a few things we need to clean up as far as the run game, couple routes and things like that. Beyond that, I thought we played pretty solid. Right near our standard but you know, (got to) keep going from there.”

Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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