Jake Browning made the wrong read and the first play of the second half became the type of interception mistake freshmen make.
What followed was precisely why Washington coach Chris Petersen went with the Browning as his starting quarterback in the first place.
Browning rebounded from his lone mistake to throw two of his three touchdown passes in the third quarter as Washington pulled away for a 31-17 win over Utah State on Saturday.
Only three games into his college career, Browning is already putting new marks in Washington’s record book. He threw for 368 yards, the most ever by a Washington freshman and 11th most in school history.
”I’ll tell you, he’s doing a good job. … It’s a little bit like that teacher that’s one step ahead of the student a little bit. We throw a lot at him, and he’s got a lot on his plate and every now and again, something will show up,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. ”But it is amazing. We won’t slow down because of him.”
Washington (2-1) closed out its nonconference schedule with a second straight 300-yard passing game from the true freshman. Browning hit Dwayne Washington on an 81-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first half then threw a pair of TDs in the third quarter as the Huskies built a 21-point lead. Browning hit Washington open down the middle for a 33-yard TD then pirouetted away from the rush for a 3-yard TD toss to Drew Sample, his first career catch.
Kicker Tristan Vizcaino added a 2-yard TD run on a fake field goal in the first half.
Browning has steadily improved from the opener at Boise State where he struggled through moments of looking like a freshman and couldn’t get the Huskies offense started. He threw for 326 yards last week against Sacramento State and was even better on Saturday against a higher quality opponent.
Utah State’s defense did its part in slowing down Washington’s run game. The Huskies leading rusher was Myles Gaskin with 42 yards, most of those coming in the fourth quarter.
But the Aggies had no ability to stop Browning through the air.
”He does a nice job with his feet and he’s got good touch and does a nice job out on the perimeter, he’s a very, very accurate kid,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said. ”I thought they did a nice job of putting him in situations to be successful.”
Browning completed 12 straight throws following his interception before Quinten Pounds’ drop with 4:14 left. The 368 yards passing were the most by a Washington QB since Keith Price threw for 376 against California in 2013.
Browning got help from Washington, using his speed to race past linebackers on both of his touchdowns. Washington took a short dump pass and beat Nick Vigil to the corner, then got a key downfield block by Dante Pettis to race down the sideline on the 81-yard score.
On the 33-yard touchdown, Washington ran past the linebackers dropping in coverage and Browning dropped the pass over the top for the score. Washington finished with 131 yards receiving, the fourth-most by a running back in school history.
”I think there were a lot of plays made by other people that helped get me out of that funk,” Browning said.
Utah State (1-2) got two touchdowns from defensive players: Nose tackle David Moala had a 1-yard TD run in the first half and Jontrell Rocquemore returned a fumble 97 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton was intercepted twice, including being picked off at the goal line early in the fourth quarter and watching Brandon Beaver return it 96 yards – the longest interception return in Washington history – before being tackled from behind at the 3. Hunter Sharp’s tackle proved critical as Jeff Lindquist fumbled two plays later and Rocquemore returned it 97 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 31-17 with 9:47 left.
Keeton was 17 of 32 for 171 yards.
”I didn’t think we did a very good job establishing the run upfront,” Wells said. ”I think it was again hit and miss up on the front line.”