Washington quarterback Jake Browning (3) points to Oregon’s Jimmie Swain (18) while rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter of a game Oct. 8 in Eugene, Ore. (Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune via AP)

Washington quarterback Jake Browning (3) points to Oregon’s Jimmie Swain (18) while rushing for a touchdown in the first quarter of a game Oct. 8 in Eugene, Ore. (Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune via AP)

Browning’s evolution key to Huskies exceeding expectations

By Tim Booth

Associated Press

SEATTLE — It was so out of character it became the defining moment of his time at Washington. Maybe that’s because the most exuberance Jake Browning had ever shown before was a fist pump and a smile.

Then came “The Point.”

As the sophomore quarterback glided into the end zone for a touchdown early in Washington’s blowout of Oregon, Browning quickly pointed in the direction of an opponent. It was a different side of Browning, one that is filled with self-confidence and a little cockiness.

Underneath an exterior that seems to be a plug-in of how Washington coach Chris Petersen is wired, Browning has a feisty competitiveness that emerges only on occasion.

“You see him in the hall, you go like this,” Washington offensive lineman Trey Adams said, mimicking Browning’s point. “Coach Pete hates that. That was awesome. I love that play.”

Thanks to Browning’s evolution, Washington exceeded the preseason expectations of being a program on the rise and reached the College Football Playoff, where it will face top-ranked Alabama in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Browning has developed into one of the top quarterbacks in the country as just a sophomore and every so often — like the play against Oregon — his self-assuredness has emerged.

“I probably appreciate him more because he has a calmer demeanor than I do,” Petersen said. “I think it’s easier when you’re a player. You can just let it go out there. When you’re on the sideline it just gets bottled up and you just try and bite your tongue as best as you can. I think the thing is we’re both really competitive and sometimes, he’s awesome, but I try and do the best I can and not be too competitive over-coaching him because he gets it.”

Browning was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the year in a vote of coaches after throwing for 3,280 yards and 42 touchdowns. He led Washington to its first conference championship since 2000 and barely missed out on a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Browning’s sixth-place finish in the Heisman voting was still the second best in Washington history behind only defensive lineman Steve Emtman who finished fourth in 1991.

Browning is still an unassuming figure on a national stage. He was an unplanned player of the year because of an unexpected jump from the end of his freshman season to now, and he’s on the verge of setting Pac-12 records for the most touchdown passes in a season. Browning’s potential sophomore slump instead became a sophomore showcase.

It was improvement his coaches hoped to see after throwing him into starting as a true freshman.

But this?

“His accuracy in the red zone has been at a high level throughout the year. He’s really improved there. His decision making when he has extended the play has improved, not forcing a couple of balls where he did his freshman year,” Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “We’re putting a lot on his plate in recognition in coverage and changing plays.”

It’s the combo of Smith and Petersen that have come to understand Browning’s personality. They had a good feel of how Browning would respond to the college game through years of recruiting Browning first at Boise State and then, Washington.

“You don’t really know what you’re going to get, but I think with him with as long as we recruited him and as much as he was around us we had a pretty good idea that he was going to be like he is,” Petersen said. “And then you just wait to see how winning and losing affects guys. Do they change?”

Browning’s numbers this season are also the result of those around him. The return of John Ross can’t be overstated, giving Washington an athletic speedster it desperately lacked a season ago. That was never more evident than the Pac-12 title game victory over Colorado when a pass Browning intended to throw away instead became a spectacular TD catch for Ross.

The combo of Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman have been productive on the ground; Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher have made significant jumps as receivers; and Washington’s coaches no longer have limitations on the playbook.

Browning sums up his season like this: Getting rid of negative plays. Plays that might have been interceptions as a freshman have been incompletions or sacks. Browning knows those negative plays can’t return if Washington is to have a chance against Alabama.

“I don’t think we’re a team that’s going to come out and throw the ball every play, or come out and run the ball every play. We stay balanced and do our thing,” Browning said. “They’re good, but you can’t let a good team get you away from what got you there.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Monroe’s Mason Davis (1) celebrates with Trent Bublitz (11) after Bublitz’s touchdown reception against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Edmonds School District Stadium in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader poll: Make your picks for Week 6 prep football games

Do you think you can beat the experts in our weekly high… Continue reading

Who’s that frog? A local high school tennis player, that’s who

Arlington tennis player Robbie Balderas worked as AquaSox mascot Webbly this season, and the busy junior also runs a landscaping business.

Mountlake Terrace’s Zaveon Jones is pulled to the ground by a diving Nicholas Mouser of Monroe on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Swarming Monroe defense keys win over Terrace in Wesco 3A South showdown

The Bearcats slow down the Hawks’ potent ground game, and quarterback Blake Springer tosses three TDs in a 35-10 victory.

Arlington players lift the Stilly Cup in the air after beating Stanwood on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington reclaims Stilly Cup after short hiatus, routs Stanwood 42-7

Leyton Martin registers 277 yards, 4 TDs as Eagles notch fifth straight game with at least six TDs.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30

Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Marysville Pilchuck’s Dominik Kendrick (9) runs with the ball during a football game between Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Marysville Pilchuck takes the win, 36-7. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville Pilchuck proud of 4-0 start, but has loftier goals

The Tomahawks aren’t listening to the outside noise, including a No. 1 WIAA RPI ranking, as a tough stretch lies ahead.

Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) gestures to Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodríguez (44) after striking Rodríguez out to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
MLB investigating Astros pitcher’s alleged use of homophobic slur

The incident occurred during a heated exchange between Houston’s Hector Neris and M’s star Julio Rodriguez on Wednesday night.

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Most Read