SEATTLE — Two games into his sophomore season, quarterback Jake Browning has been little short of outstanding for the University of Washington football team.
On Saturday afternoon, Browning was the catalyst for the UW offense in a 59-14 romp against Idaho at Husky Stadium. Browning had one touchdown pass in the first quarter, three more in the second quarter, and a fifth and final TD in the early minutes of the third quarter. At that point he went to the bench for the rest of the game, having totaled 294 passing yards while completing 23 of 28 attempts.
With his five touchdown passes on Saturday, Browning tied a school record shared by Keith Price (2012), Jake Locker (2010) and Chris Rowland (1973).
His impressive Game 2 stats came a week after he was 18-for-27 for 287 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-13 win against Rutgers. True, neither Rutgers nor Idaho has one of the nation’s best defenses, but Browning’s play has been stellar nonetheless.
“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well,” Browning acknowledged after Saturday’s game in a rare bit of self-praise.
In his first two games a year ago Browning was a wide-eyed freshman, less than a year removed from the end of his senior high school season. This season he is noticeably more poised and polished, and his teammates and coaches can see the difference.
“I think his confidence is up more (than last year),” said wide receiver Dante Pettis, who had six catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns vs. Idaho.
“He has done a real nice job,” added UW head coach Chris Petersen. Against the Vandals “he did a great job of scrambling and keeping his eyes down the field. We’ve actually been working on that quite a bit (because) it is going to come up every game. … He’s completing a lot of passes and keeping his eyes downfield and buying time, and doing all those things that good quarterbacks do.”
Browning started slowly on Saturday, in part because Idaho was blitzing often and the UW offensive line was having trouble with protection. He was just 3-for-6 through the air in the first quarter, but in the second quarter he had a string of 13 consecutive completions (including three touchdowns), on his way to a final completion percentage of .821 (23-for-28), the fifth-best in UW history.
The Huskies went to a no-huddle offense for much of the second quarter, and it seemed to put the Idaho defense back on its heels. At the same time, Browning seemed to find a nice rhythm with the line-up-and-go strategy.
“We kind of saw on film that we thought we could go fast and kind of get them (off balance) because they want to dial up some blitzes,” Browning explained. “We kind of thought if we went fast, we’d get them in more basic (defenses). … And I kind of like it when we’re going fast.”
“We tried to change the tempo a little bit,” said UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith. “That worked well.” Browning seemed to find a comfort zone in that quarter, he added, “and if the quarterback’s comfortable you’re probably going to have success.”