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Breaking Down the Opposition: Huskies WR John Ross a playmaker

John Ross doesn’t always get a ton of yardage, but he does score a whole bunch

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Colorado vs Washington Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Washington presents the best offense Alabama will have faced so far. The Huskies rank highly in both traditional and advanced metrics; and they have studs at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. John Ross isn’t the biggest at 5’11, 190lbs, but he produces. He has 76 catches for 1,122 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns. All 17 of those scores have come against FBS teams, and 15 of them were against P5 opponents. He scored a touchdown every 4.5 catches.

Ross went off against Cal: 6 receptions for 206 yards (34.7 yards/rec) with 3 touchdowns. Four of his catches went for 30+ yards and two gained 60+ yards. Cal’s passing defense ranked just 86th, but still, not too shabby.

1st and 10: Ross is in the slot. Browning fakes the handoff to RB Lavon Coleman and looks deep. Ross, on a route Bama fans are very familiar with, goes deep and fakes the corner route before cutting back on the post route. He sells it well and has several yards of separation from the safety who is responsible for him. The pass is a little underthrown, though; so Ross has to slow down for it, giving the safety time to close. He catches and secures it right as the defender makes contact. He is able to shrug off the attempted tackle, staying on his feet to score.

2nd and 12: Ross is initially stacked with TE Drew Sample, but Sample motions to the left a few steps and sets up in the slot. The corner is in press; but he doesn’t jam Ross, who just releases to the outside and uses his speed to run past the defender. Ross runs a post route and has to wait on another underthrown ball. The corner is still a yard away when he catches it. Ross has great awareness here, slamming on the brakes to let the corner shoot past him. He sees another defensive back closing in and ducks low to avoid that tackle. With four Cal players around him, he cuts back and loops around to the left. Ross uses his speed to get the corner on one guy, and he gets a handy block from a fellow receiver.

2nd and 10: In a battle of potential first rounders, Ross and Trojans CB Adoree’ Jackson have been going back-and-forth. Ross has 5 catches for 66 yards with no touchdowns at this point (granted, not all against Jackson). Solid, but he’s largely been held in check. On first down in this drive, Jackson broke up Browning’s pass to Ross.

Washington is in shotgun with 11 personnel. Ross is the lone wideout on the left, and Jackson is opposite him in press coverage. Ross steps inside with his right leg and sells the quick slant with his whole body. Jackson steps back and in that direction only to have Ross plant and use it to release outside. Jackson vainly tries to recover and backpedal, but he only succeeds in falling down. With the safety on that side cheating in to take away a slant, there’s nobody deep. Ross hauls in the pass for an easy catch and runs the remaining 40 yards for a touchdown to put Washington right back in it. Here’s another angle of that nasty move:

Now on to the Apple Cup.

3rd and 10: The Huskies have 3rd and long in the red zone. Browning motions TE Darrell Daniels from left to right. This moves the Wazzu safety, and now there’s an empty patch of field. Ross is now the sole receiver on the left, and he’s facing press coverage from the cornerback. Lavon Coleman flares out, and the linebacker jumps to pursue. With the safety dropping back to cover a possible deep route from Ross, there’s a hole lot of green in the middle of the field. Ross fights off the jams and runs a quick slant. The pass is high, but Ross snatches and pulls it down with both hands. Ross hangs on as he’s being dragged down and takes a pop from the safety for good measure, too.

1st and 10: Washington has a commanding lead over Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, and the Huskies are looking for the final dagger. They’re moving the ball quickly, covering 41 yards in three plays. The Huskies have their trusty 11 personnel. Gaskin is originally wide left, but he motions into the backfield to Browning’s right. Drew Sample is in-line on the left; and the three receivers, including Ross, are to the right.

Ross fakes going downfield before cutting back towards the line. I’m not sure if this was what he was supposed to do because WR Chico McCluster is also waiting for a quick screen. Browning wanted to look downfield anyway, so Ross just waits in the flat. Colorado gets pressure, forcing Browning to scrambling. As he’s getting dragged down, he lofts a prayer in Ross’s direction; and it looks like this could end up as a pick six. The 5’11 Ross has other intentions, however. He elevates and makes an impressive one-handed snag. He lands and takes off for the endzone, shooting past the corner. Not at all how they drew it up, but it showcases Ross’s incredible athleticism.