BOULDER, Colo. >> Linebacker-turned-tailback Shaq Thompson can’t wait to get back to doing what he does best.
“You get to hit people instead of getting hit,” Thompson said after rushing for 174 yards in Washington’s 38-23 win over Colorado on Saturday. “Everybody loves to hit people. That’s what I love, that’s my mentality, hitting people.”
Thompson might not get that chance, though, after gaining 215 all-purpose yards in Washington’s come-from-behind romp.
The 6-foot-1, 228-pound bruiser averaged nearly 12 yards per carry, scored on a 24-yard run and added a 41-yard catch-and-run in which he eluded two tacklers and hurdled a third to set up another score.
“He has a big game every game wherever we put him,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said.
Thompson, who was pressed into duty on offense two weeks ago because of injuries in the Huskies’ backfield, has rushed for 272 yards and two TDs to go with his four defensive touchdowns.
Linebacker, tailback, what’s next?
“I keep saying I know he can play three positions for sure really, really good, if not five,” Petersen said. “He’s fun to watch. He’s fun for us as coaches to watch, give him a little space as an athlete, he’s so strong that he’s going to push the pile. He’s hard to tackle.”
While on the sideline he pined for some snaps on defense.
“I did, especially when I saw those missed tackles,” Thompson said. “It’s tough for me because I came here for defense. Those are my brothers, I miss being out there with them.”
Thompson doesn’t have to go back to defense to deliver the hits, though.
“He’s a pretty big guy and keeps his legs turning, of course. He runs hard,” Buffaloes linebacker Kenneth Olugbode said. “He brings that defensive mentality, where I’m going to run you over and I’m going to hit you rather than you hit me.”
With Thompson starring on offense, Dante Pettis scored on an 87-yard punt return and linebacker Travis Feeney had a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Huskies bulldozed the Buffs in the second half.
“I was happy, because Travis has butterfingers,” Thompson said. “So, when he caught that ball I was juiced. He finally caught one. I’m proud of him.”
The Huskies (6-3, 2-3 Pac-12) overcame a 20-17 halftime deficit to snap a two-game skid.
The Buffaloes (2-7, 0-6) were done in by four turnovers in losing their fifth straight. The Buffs started out fast for a change, but failed to finish strong even though they slowed Thompson after his big first half in which he ran for 151 yards and a TD on just 10 carries and added his 41-yard reception to set up another score.
Thompson limped off after a reception for no gain late in the third quarter.
“I just landed on my (right) ankle so I had to go get taped. I wanted to be cautious to see if I could walk on it first,” Thompson said.
He returned to help the Huskies run out the clock in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies’ first lead came with 5:38 left in the third quarter when Cyler Miles faked a handoff to Thompson, rolled left and found Pettis for a 28-yard touchdown to put Washington ahead 24-23.
That touchdown followed a fumble by Buffaloes freshman running back Phillip Lindsay, who also fumbled the kickoff after Feeney’s pick-6 had made it 31-23.
Pettis put the game out of reach when he darted down the Huskies’ sideline to make it a two-score game with 13:10 left.
“That was a tough loss, one we had all the momentum going,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I felt like definitely Washington won the game. But I feel like we really gave them the game.”
The Buffs’ last gasp ended when Hau’oli Kikaha dumped Sefo Luifau for a sack on fourth-and-8 from the Washington 9 with two minutes left. Kikaha leads the nation with 15 1-2 sacks.
Thompson was a little jealous.
He’s not sure he’d be OK with just running the ball the rest of the season.
“Ah, I haven’t decided,” he said. “Because I love defense and hitting people.”