Jake Browning switched a call on a 4th-and-10 play and it worked brilliantly, helping Washington leave the doldrums and the Beavers behind in a 42-7 win in Corvallis Saturday.
It wasn’t that long ago, 2012 in fact, when Oregon State was 6-0 and ranked 10th in the country. The Huskies gave the Beavers their first loss that year, a 20-17 upset on a Travis Coons field goal with 1:20 left. Since then, their worlds went separate ways.
The sixth-ranked Huskies (5-0, 2-0) these days are busy pursuing summits, and the Beavers are pursuing pond bottoms in the Willamette Valley.
The 42-7 win Saturday night (box) in Corvallis was about as routine an outcome as this Pac-12 Conference series has come to expect. The previous five games were won by Washington by an average score of 44-16.
Only a tepid second quarter from the UW offense, which made for a modest 7-0 halftime lead, interjected a cursory bit of intrigue. That ended abruptly on the Huskies’ first possession of the second half, an 86-yard touchdown drive in seven plays that contained something unseen during Chris Petersen’s coaching tenure.
On fourth and 10 at the OSU 25, the Huskies chose to skip a field goal try from the increasingly shaky senior kicker, Tristan Vizcaino. But instead of the obvious requirement to pass, QB Jake Browning shocked all by handing off to RB Lavon Coleman.
“It was awesome,” Petersen said. “We were going to throw it. Jake saw it was overloaded — huge pressure (coming up the middle) and no (defenders) to the boundary. He just changed the call to the right play, and around the corner they went.”
Coleman, returning after two games following a concussion, took the surprise and weaved for 20 yards and a first down at the five-yard line. On the next play, Browning found WR Dante Pettis for the first of three TD passes in the third quarter.
The 14-0 lead dispatched any lingering doubts about a sixth consecutive win in the series, because the Beavers’ offense, behind second-string QB Darell Garretson (grandson of a legendary NBA referee of the same name), was nearly helpless to come back against a relentless Washington defense.
“Jake was doing that all night, getting us out of a bunch of different plays,” Petersen said, “no bigger than that one right there.”
Browning had his best statistical day of the season (26 of 34 for 293 yards, three TD and one pick off a deflected ball), but hasn’t had headline-making output so far this season despite being in the outskirts of the Heisman Trophy conversation. But Petersen is much more thrilled with Browning’s command of the game.
“There’s so much on his plate,” he said. “It’s not like he’s changing to just one play all the time. We’re changing multiple plays multiple times. You’ll see (other QBs) wearing wristbands to remind them what plays to check to. Jake knows it all. He does a great job of it.”
But he can’t do it all. The Beavers (1-4, 0-2) in the first half sacked him three times as they managed quality coverage of a UW receiving corps missing Chico McClatcher, lost for the season last week against Colorado with an ankle injury.
So in the second half, Browning went hard to his main man, Pettis, who delivered with a career-high 12 catches for 105 yards and the three TDs. Coleman (70 yards on nine carries) and Myles Gaskin (113 yards on 15) also picked up the slack on the ground.
“The first quarter was fine (first possession was a 98-yard drive to a rushing touchdown by Browning) but we didn’t have it much,” Petersen said. “The second quarter was painful, and the third quarter, we went out and played like we can play.”
That resulted in a huge disparity in yards (509 to 184) and first downs (32 to eight) as the Huskies after intermission moved almost at will.
The Huskies’ defense, meanwhile, had a huge advantage in the middle, limiting the Beavers’ big back, Ryan Nall, to 18 yards in nine carries, and picked up two OSU fumbles. Garretson tried almost no throws downfield, the longest reception going for 19 yards.
The Beavers emulated the game plan of Rutgers, the Huskies’ season-opening foe that slowed down the game and hoped to get lucky with a few Washington mistakes.
In each game, it worked for awhile, but the Huskies scored TDs on five of their six second-half possessions Saturday, the miss being the tipped ball that turned into an interception.
The only consternation Saturday was the kicking game. After Vizcaino’s second-quarter field goal attempt hit off the left upright — his fourth miss in the past five attempts — Petersen switched to freshman Van Soderberg, who hit all five PATs in the second half but attempted no field goals.
“I feel bad for him because he’s just missing,” Petersen said. “He’s pressing a little bit. He has to go back to work. which he will — 12 inches and he’ll be money. He’s got big-leg talent. Just straighten it out a little bit.”
That opportunity will come next week at home against Cal (3-2, 0-2), which lost 45-24 to Oregon Saturday night in Eugene.