SEATTLE — Marcus Peters shows those flashes where it’s clear he has a chance to become the next standout cornerback to come through Washington.
And then there are those moments when Peters reminds everyone he’s still just a sophomore rife with talent but prone to making youthful mistakes.
“Marcus is a good player. Marcus, again, is a sophomore, and he has moments of greatness, which we saw last week. It’s staying consistent with that for him,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “ ... When he’s really detail-oriented, when he trusts his technique, man, he’s a playmaker.”
Peters and his teammates will face their second consecutive major test when they try to corral Washington State’s pass-happy offense on Friday in the Apple Cup. For most of the season, Washington’s secondary was considered one of the top units in the Pac-12, but much of that was based off a strong first five games.
What the Huskies and Peters specifically did against Oregon State last week seemed to solidify much of that belief.
Peters and the Huskies secondary made the night miserable for Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion. He was intercepted three times, twice by Peters, with the third interception returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Shaq Thompson. Peters also forced a fumble. While standout Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks had 10 receptions, much of that came after the Huskies had put the game out of reach.
It was widely considered the best game of Peters’ young career. But he was quick to point out his one mistake: getting a personal foul penalty for retaliating to a low block.
“I could play a whole lot better. I had the personal foul penalty which shouldn’t happen. That’s something I have to grow from,” Peters said. “The player made a decision to try and cut me and I have to make a better decision and not react to stuff like that. Without that I would say I had a great game, but the personal foul penalty set me back.”
Sarkisian didn’t seem to mind the personal foul penalty quite as much as Peters.
“I think you have to have some of that. You’re a DB. You’ve got to have a short memory, you’ve got to have thick skin, you’ve got to be tough-minded,” Sarkisian said. “You have to be willing to play one-on-one football and one-on-one battles. I think that’s a little bit of Marcus’ makeup. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.”
The ability to contain the Oregon State passing attack left the Huskies ranked second in the Pac-12 in pass defense efficiency and 17th in the country. They are third in the conference in yards passing allowed and passed the first of two significant challenges to close the regular season.
Much of that success this season is because of Peters’ continued improvement. After starting as a freshman opposite NFL first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant, Peters has taken the primary role in the Huskies secondary. At 5-foot-11, Peters also has the size more NFL teams are looking for in cornerbacks.
Peters and his teammates may get the type of test they haven’t faced yet this season from the Cougars. California threw the ball 59 times in late October against the Huskies. Peters said he’s ready for 50 or more throws from Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, knowing that Halliday threw 89 times earlier this season against Oregon.
“You’ve got to be ready to go out there and guard them for four quarters of the game,” Peters said. “We’ve got to get our running shoes on.”