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Originally published Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 8:53 PM

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Jermaine Kearse eager to show he can improve production

After making uncharacteristic dropped passes, the junior hopes to get back on track starting with Oregon State on Saturday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Oregon State @ UW, 7:15 p.m., ESPN

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The immediate response for Jermaine Kearse on Saturday night, after dropping three passes in Washington's 24-14 loss to Arizona State, was to escape.

"I played FIFA soccer," he said, referring to a popular video game. "I just didn't watch football. That's the type of competitor I am. When I don't feel like I don't compete to my standard, I feel sick to my stomach. So I just go home and play FIFA."

But when a new week of preparation began for Saturday night's game against Oregon State, Kearse decided to meet his confounding case of the drops head on.

As he had done all week, when practice ended Wednesday night Kearse was one of the last off the field, catching a few extra passes with other defensive backs and receivers catching extra passes.

"I went away from the things I usually do," Kearse said, admitting he hadn't done as much extra work catching passes as he had in the past. "I'm getting back to those things. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling really good."

The ASU game was just the latest struggle for Kearse, who has eight drops this season, including three in the opener at BYU. It's a testament to his overall ability that he remains second in the Pac-10 in receptions per game (28, 5.6) and receiving yards (477, 95.4) despite the drops.

But for Kearse, the ASU game was where it all came to a head. He had a critical drop on a fourth-down play late in the first half, and another on a long pass in the fourth quarter with UW behind 21-14.

"I'm not going to lie, right after the play I was like, 'How did I drop that? I make that in my sleep,' " he said. "It comes with the game. I mean, people drop passes. It's what you do after that dropped pass — are you going to come back with another drop, or are you going to come back with a catch and make plays?"

He had talks this week with UW coach Steve Sarkisian and receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty as well as teammate Desmond Trufant, who is going through some similar struggles.

He also had another long chat Tuesday with UW quarterback Jake Locker. TV analysts have wondered if Locker is losing confidence in Kearse. Locker reassured Kearse on Tuesday that's not the case.

"He said he's never lost any confidence in me, and knows the type of player I am, and knows I can be that guy," said Kearse, a junior who was a second-team All-Pac-10 pick last season. "That definitely helps out knowing my quarterback hasn't lost any confidence."

Dougherty said the coaches haven't lost any confidence in Kearse, either. But he acknowledges of the drops that "we know it's an issue. It's not like we are just turning our heads to it."

In addition to having the receivers and defensive backs catch more passes after practice this week, coaches also encouraged Kearse to spend more time in the film room.

"We got on him about coming back into the coaches office more, studying more tape, and that helps with your confidence when you go out there and play," Dougherty said. "You know your opponent better and know you can go out and play free. I don't think he purposely did it, and we didn't allow it, but maybe he just got away from that a little bit in working hard in his preparation going into the game. So he's definitely addressed that this week and had a great week of preparation so far and I'm looking forward to him having a great game Saturday."

So is Kearse, eager to prove to those who may be questioning his play that there is nothing wrong.

"No one knows me better than I know myself, and I know the type of player I can be," he said. "And if they doubt me, then they doubt me. But when I come out there and just play like I can, there is not much you can say."

Notes

• Locker again sat out the team portion of practice, but took part in other drills and Sarkisian labeled him as "probable" to play if the Huskies had to play on Wednesday.

"I thought he looked a lot better today than he did yesterday and hopefully he can do more tomorrow," Sarkisian said. "But I thought he did some really good things today."

Locker is not only recovering from a flu-like bug that hit him Saturday, but also a quad contusion that Sarkisian said he suffered early in Saturday's game.

Keith Price again took most of the snaps with Locker out, with Nick Montana taking the rest.

• Sarkisian said WR Devin Aguilar, who missed the ASU game with a hip flexor, would be listed as doubtful, but that there's a chance he could play.

Also, LG Erik Kohler remains out and the Huskies continued to experiment on the line.

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