SEATTLE — A No. 8 national ranking is something University of Washington football coach Chris Petersen is loathe to discuss. But if his team keeps playing like this, he may have trouble quelling the lofty talk.
On Saturday afternoon, the Huskies shrugged off a sluggish start — well, sluggish after the first 16 seconds when they scored a first-play touchdown after an Idaho fumble on the opening kickoff — to roll past the visiting and decidedly overmatched Vandals 59-14 on a day of brilliant sunshine at Husky Stadium.
Washington got a big game from sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, who tied a UW single-game record with five touchdown passes to go with 294 passing yards and a dandy .821 completion percentage (23-for-28). Equally stellar was the first-team defense, which kept Idaho scoreless through the early minutes of the third quarter before heading to the bench with the Huskies on top 42-0.
All in all, Petersen said, “I’m really proud of the guys. … I thought they were focused for the game.”
The game should do nothing to hurt Washington’s standing in the eyes of the national pollsters. Though the lead was just 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Huskies broke it open in a hurry by scoring five touchdowns in the space of 15 minutes, a span that reached into the early third quarter. Browning had TD passes to receivers Dante Pettis, Chico McClatcher and John Ross (two) in that stretch, with the other TD coming on a 7-yard Myles Gaskin run.
Midway through the third quarter the Huskies had mostly reserves on the field, and by the end of the game they were playing third stringers and beyond. The final margin was 45 points and it could have been much, much more.
“We just got whooped,” acknowledged Idaho coach Paul Petrino. “That team was better than us and they got after us.”
The start was everything Washington could have hoped for. After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Huskies got a turnover on the kickoff as defensive back Budda Baker made a big hit on Idaho returner Lloyd Hightower, the ball popped out, and UW linebacker Keishawn Bierria won a scramble for the ball. On the first play from scrimmage Browning rolled right after getting flushed from the pocket and found Pettis at the back of the end zone for a TD.
From there the Washington offense sputtered for three straight possessions. By the end of the first period Idaho had an edge in total yards (78-52) and first downs (4-3), and came close to getting a game-tying touchdown, only to lose the ball on a fumble at the UW 1-yard line.
But in the second quarter the Huskies went to their up-tempo offense — no huddles, quick snaps — and the switch provided a much-needed spark. In succession Washington scored TDs on drives of five, six, six and seven plays, giving the home team a 35-0 lead at halftime.
“They really got after us in the second quarter,” Petrino said. “I expected them to go to the hurry-up offense and it worked out for them really well. I think that really wore out our defense and then in the second quarter their defense really got after our offense.”
When Washington had another six-play touchdown drive to start the third quarter the rout was officially on. Idaho did get two TDs against the UW backups, but the Huskies also got a field goal and two more touchdowns on a 26-yard scoring pass from reserve quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuel to receiver Quinton Pounds and then a game-ending 46-yard interception return by reserve linebacker Connor O’Brien.
Before starting their Pacific-12 Conference schedule at Arizona on Sept. 24, the Huskies have one last non-conference game next Saturday. The opponent will be Portland State, an FCS team from the Big Sky Conference, which means Washington should once more be a heavy favorite.
But regardless of the foe, Petersen said, “our whole mentality … is completely on us, always. We scored a lot of points (against Idaho), but I know when we put the tape on there’s going to be so many things that we can clean up. … So I just don’t feel that this team will get complacent.
“The first two weeks were pretty good,” he added, “and now I’m excited for Week 3.”