The entire week the message from Chris Petersen to his Washington team was to understand the urgency surrounding where they stood with five games remaining.
There was no longer time for sluggish starts or youthful mistakes.
“I think our team felt the urgency this week that we needed to get something done in a hurry,” Petersen said.
Led by the return of quarterback Jake Browning, the Huskies put together their most complete performance of the season in a 49-3 rout of Arizona on Saturday night.
Browning became the fifth Washington quarterback in the last 20 seasons to pass for four touchdowns in a game and added a fifth TD on a 12-yard run leading the Huskies to their most lopsided conference victory since a 59-7 win over Colorado in 2013.
After sitting out last week against Stanford with a shoulder injury, Browning was nearly flawless throwing three first-half touchdowns as the Huskies (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) built a 21-3 lead. Browning added a 31-yard TD strike to Dante Pettis on the opening possession of the second half and capped his night with his first career touchdown rushing to give the Huskies a 35-3 lead.
Browning finished 16 of 24 passing for 263 yards. He joined Jake Locker, Keith Price, Brock Huard and Cody Pickett as the only Washington QBs with at least four touchdown passes in a game since 1996.
“We just came out with better energy, I think. That’s big for us,” Browning said. “A big thing for us has been starting fast and finishing fast and we’ve been doing well in the second half and have to start doing better in the first half and I thought we did that today.”
Browning threw a pair of 13-yard touchdowns in the first half, first to Dwayne Washington out of the backfield and later to tight end Joshua Perkins. Browning added a 5-yard TD pass to Brayden Lenius with 54 seconds left in the first half that capped one of the Huskies most efficient drives of the season going 63 yards in just 91 seconds for a 21-3 lead.
Dwayne Washington added a 69-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and backup quarterback Jeff Lindquist provided the capper with an 8-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter.
The 49 points by Washington were the most against a conference opponent since putting up 63 on Oregon State late in the 2013 season.
“I thought we got some things rolling on offense,” Petersen said. “Nice to see our pass game overshadow our run game a little bit.”
Just as impressive as Browning’s efficiency was the Huskies defense holding Arizona to its fewest points since being shut out at Oregon in 2012. The Wildcats were averaging nearly 42 points, but Washington forced four turnovers and sacked Arizona quarterbacks three times.
Arizona (5-4, 2-4) suffered its second straight loss, but unlike last week against Washington State when a comeback attempt fell short late, there was no fight from the Wildcats on a wet and blustery night. Arizona still needs one more victory to reach bowl eligibility but that won’t be easy with games remaining against USC, Utah and Arizona State.
“Like last week and this week, this was as disappointed as I’ve ever been probably,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Anu Solomon got the majority of the playing time at quarterback after it was expected that Jerrod Randall would get the call. Randall played sparingly in the first half before taking over late in the third quarter when the game was out of hand.
After going 209 pass attempts this season without throwing an interception, Solomon threw two picks in his final 18 pass attempts of the first half. Solomon’s 210th pass attempt of the season was intercepted by Sidney Jones late in the first quarter. Randall was later intercepted by Jojo McIntosh and Solomon was intercepted by Budda Baker on the final play of the first half on a desperation throw to the end zone.
Solomon finished 18 of 31 passing for 160 yards and Arizona’s 330 total yards were its second-fewest of the season.
“We were just physical. We were just hitting our gaps and hitting all of our assignments,” Washington linebacker Travis Feeney said. “Everybody was locked in on their assignments and doing their job.”