Another Husky practice Wednesday featured a familar sight — Jermaine Kearse lingering afterward, spending an extra 10-15 minutes working on some ball drills.
That Kearse has always been known as one of the team’s hardest workers — the respect his teammates have for him is evident in their voting him one of four team captains last spring — has made his periodic struggles with dropped passes something of a head-scratcher. That Kearse has been named an all-conference second team pick as selected by coaches each of the past two years speaks to his overall ability and only makes the drops that much more confounding.
“I wish I knew,” receiver coach Jimmie Dougherty said Wednesday. “And I think it is all between the ears. It’s all a mental thing. You guys (reporters who watch practice) see it — he’s one of, if not the, hardest workers in our group, if not the team, staying after practice and catching extra balls. He’s not that guy that has a bad attitude and is not putting in the extra work. He’s doing everything he can physically. It’s just a matter of a mind set and knowing you can go out and make those plays every time.”
Kearse dropped at least two — and depending on how you judge it, three — passes in Saturday’s loss at Stanford, reviving a bad habit of a year ago when he had 11 drops. Kearse said heading into the season he had the problem licked.
But the Stanford game revived some bad memories of last year, particularly a drop on a wide-open pass around the 15-yard-line in the second quarter on the series that ended in a missed Husky field goal that left the score at 24-14.
Despite the drops, Kearse had four receptions for 52 yards in the game and he remains the team’s leading receiver with 27 receptions on the season.
After practice Wednesday, Kearse insisted he’s not worried about the drops and that he’s confident it won’t happen again this season.
“That was just one bad game,” he said. “I don’t think that is an issue at all. That stuff happens. I’m going to do my best to not let it happen again. I definitely don’t think those games will happen again.”
Asked if that game bothered him, he said: “After the game I feel disgusted. You always want to play the best you can, and I didn’t play my best game on Saturday. I owe it my guys to bring my best game every game and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Dougherty, though, wanted to make sure this week that Kearse’s confidence hasn’t wavered. After Monday’s practice, the two talked on the field at Husky Stadium long after most everyone else had cleared out.
“It was related to his demeanor, more than anything, and just getting his confidence back and not letting that linger around,” Dougherty said. “I didn’t want that game to linger around for the rest of the season. We’ve got a big ballgame this weekend and down the road so just kind of letting him know that and just getting him back to being himself, really, and not worrying about that. (Just telling him that) that game is over and obviously disappointed that you didn’t make the plays but we believe in you and you are going to make them this Saturday.”
And Dougherty said part of the message was also letting Kearse know that the team’s confidence in him also remains strong.
“He’s been through it before, and again, just like always we have not changed our stance,” he said. “We know he is capable of coming out and dominating every game. He’s got that ability, and again he’s just got to get back to making those plays and having the confidence of knowing that he’s made a ton of plays for us in the past and get back to doing that.”