BY Art Thiel 01:27AM 11/19/2017

Thiel: As Huskies nearly go down, Browning rises

Jake Browning hit seven passes in a row over the final two possessions to rally the Huskies to a 33-30 win when beleaguered Tristan Vizcaino hit the game-winning FG at 00:00.

Myles Gaskin scored two rushing touchdowns to bring his career total to 39, a Washington record. His 43 total TDs is also a UW high mark. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Witnesses may have believed that the pivotal moment of the game came when Tristan Vizcaino hit the first game-winning field goal of his life from 38 yards at 00:00 to give the Washington Huskies a delirious 33-30 win over Utah Saturday night at Husky Stadium. They would be wrong.

The same witnesses may have thought that, on the previous drive, the pivotal moment came on an unlikely 28-yard catch-and-run by TE Will Dissly to the Utah 3 that set up the game-tying touchdown. They would be wrong again.

The same witnesses may have thought that the pivotal moment came with 4:40 left when QB Jake Browning, not seeing an open receiver in the end zone, tried to run for a first down and fourth-and-eight on the Utah 15. He broke from the pocket for six yards and tried to leap for the final two, but instead was flipped upside down and crash-landed, short and hard. This time, they would be right — for the wrong reason.

As many of those witnesses began leaving, presuming a 30-23 Washington defeat, the pivotal moment came when RB Lavon Coleman confronted a prone, pained Browning on the Husky Stadium turf.

“I told him to get his ass up,” Coleman recalled, grinning. “If you hurt, get going; if you injured, be gone.”

Browning’s ill-advised leap put him in serious physical jeopardy, but he said he had no choice.

“I wasn’t going to run through the guy,” he said of his tackler. “So I jumped, and I came down funny. For a minute I thought my leg was broken.”

It wasn’t. Properly scolded by Coleman, Browning rose up and delivered the best moments of his often desultory junior season. In one stretch, he completed seven passes in a row for 108 yards over Washington’s final two possessions, which covered 112 yards in 14 plays and produced an astonishing 10 points in the final 58 seconds.

The Utes looked as if they had fallen into a toilet.

“I thought we played very well for 58 minutes,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “(Browning) threw the ball up and those receivers made some terrific plays.”

Given Washington’s repeated and ghastly failures on defense and special teams, Browning’s revival was the only hope to avert a second loss in a row and complete a dismal evening.

In the second quarter came news that Stanford beat Cal to eliminate UW from the Pac-12 North’s shot at a berth in the conference title game. If Washington State wins the Apple Cup Saturday (5 p.m., FOX), the Cougars advance. If the Huskies win, Stanford goes against South winner USC.

Coleman said there was little hope if Browning didn’t stand and deliver.

“The quarterback is the general of your team,” he said. “If he goes down, it kinda shakes everything. I told him to get up. He got up.

“He showed me his toughness. He showed me that going back to Rutgers (the season opener). Seeing him get up, shake it off and do that drive to win the game, you know you got a good general.”

Browning completed 26 of 35 passes for 354 yards, no picks or fumbles and only two sacks. Especially given his late heroics, it was his finest game in a season that moved the Huskies to 9-2. His two TD passes gave him 77 for his career and the UW record over Keith Price. He’s tied with John Elway for 14th in conference history.

“That was a pretty cool game to be a part of,” Browning said. I’m emotionally, mentally, and physically just very tired.”

Coach Chris Petersen knew that Browning pulled the Huskies out of a bad fix after the defense gave up 30 points for the second week in a row.

“I’m proud of Jake,” he said. “He did some really good things and made some clutch plays. All of those guys executed well. There was a lot of pressure on them to get things done. They made plays when they had to.”

None more so than Vizcaino, the fifth-year senior who struggled frequently and again Saturday, missing a field goal and a PAT. But after Browning finally missed a pass to WR Dante Pettis, who appeared to be pulled down by his defender near the end zone but drew no flag, Petersen did not hesitate.

“I didn’t say anything to him,” he said. “We had nothing to lose at that stage. I think he’s cleaner from the left hash. I really thought he was going to make it. It was great to see him make it. I think the team was really, really happy for him.”

As with any kicker, Vizcaino dreamed of the moment when the game was his, especially since he’d never had the privilege at any time in his career.

“It felt great — one of the best, if not the best, feeling you can have as a kicker,” he said. “I wanted the game-winner. I wanted it last week at Stanford if we were in that position too. Our specialist unit — Race Porter, A.J. Carty — this was a moment we have been preparing for and a moment we have wanted.”

They don’t come in more dramatic fashion, especially to finish off 10 points in the final minute. The win was a dream, the season less so, after the prospect of a second appearance in the College Football Playoffs faded away.

But given the injuries on offense, the 9-2 mark is plenty enough to make the Apple Cup with the 9-2 Cougars an unusually worthy neighborhood brawl.

“It was loud tonight,” Coleman said, “but ain’t loud compared to what it’s gonna be Saturday.”

All together, everyone — get your asses up.


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YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    Great piece, Art. This nail biter was one of the most miraculous I can remember.

    It’s clear that the Dawgs’ D coaches have their work cut out for them this coming week. If they and their players aren’t able to achieve a big improvement in pass defense, Luke Falk and the Cougs are going to slice them to ribbons.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Petersen hasn’t lost to Leach in the AC. He knows the Air Raid is beatable with the kind of pass rush UW can bring.

    • Husky73

      I think I read that somewhere…oh yeah, last year. A healthy Falk was going to “slice them to ribbons.” Don’t underestimate (again) the Husky pass rush, and don’t underestimate the weirdness of Mike Leach.

      • art thiel

        Leach does have a way of undoing his good deeds.

  • Effzee

    Dismal is right. And cold! The plethora of passes Jake passed on was painfully puzzling. I still can’t process that we prevailed. It’s preposterous!

    • art thiel

      It’s college football. Defenses get tired, and Petersen is relentless in practice on the 2-minute drill. It’s what they do best.

  • Buggy White

    What a great win! As soon as the game ended we saw Browning and Vizcaino being interviewed on the field, and couldn’t wait for the post-game coverage! But there was none, as the lame duo of Gilmore and Jones just threw it back to a pre-recorded Sportscenter so we could see the Oklahoma QB grab his crotch a few times! What a terrible TV contract the Pac-12 has!

    • art thiel

      ESPN usually adds post-game stuff later in SportsCenter on a late college Saturday night. But I was working. Don’t know what they did.

  • jafabian

    Finally saw Jake manage the two minute offense and he didn’t disappoint. Through no fault of his own he rarely had a need to do so and the few times he’s had to he’d struggle. Hopefully he can build on this. Considering how many times Utah reached into Jack Patera’s bag of tricks I’d love to see Coach Pete occasionally do the no huddle offense or do the two minute drill more.

    • art thiel

      The Huskies have done up-tempo numerous times in Petersen’s tenure. But losing LT Adams and 3 receivers to injury limits the playbook.

  • 1coolguy

    Jake needs next year to get stronger, as his arm is not NFL quality. With more strength, he will be able to throw through the tight windows and the deep out patterns necessary at the next level. If he is REALLY lucky, he will also get a new OC – for any that still doubt this, did you watch for first 58 minutes? Ugh

    • art thiel

      Again, it’s not about the OC. The Huskies reached the CFP with Smith.

      You’re right about Jake, but you missed the part about his No. 2, 3, 4 receivers being out with injuries. He doesn’t trust the newbie replacements yet.

      • 1coolguy

        Jake was at his best last year when Tedford was there. Once Tedford left, he went downhill. Why do you think Petersen brought Tedford in? Peterson invited Tedford, not the other way around. Tedford left the week BEFORE the USC debacle.

        • Husky73

          I doubt if Tedford had one iota of influence on Jake Browning.

          • Pompous Twerp

            @Husky73: What was that you were saying earlier about resting cases and insanity pleas? We’ll take yours now, thankyouverymuch.

    • DaleR

      We had the same OC when we were blowing teams out last year. If this defense was as good as last year’s we’d be a 10-1 team right now and we would have won last night’s game by 20. Including last year’s draft we’ve lost 4 of our top 5 receivers. Our cadillac left tackle (a notoriously difficult position to replace) has led to some serious smackdowns for Browning. Browning lacks a little arm strength for the deepest passes but I think you’re seeing his aversion to turnovers rather than an inability to thread passes into tight spots. He’s completing passes 70 percent of the time and this isn’t a dink-and-dunk offense. I don’t know if he’s the best college QB the huskies have had but he’s certainly in the conversation.

      • 1coolguy

        Jake was at his best last year when Tedford was there. Once Tedford left, he went downhill. Why do you think Petersen brought Tedford in? Peterson invited Tedford, not the other way around.

        • DaleR

          I hadn’t considered Tedford but he wasn’t the only variable. Obviously Ross had a huge impact. Including Ross we are now down 5 of our top 6 receiving targets since last year. Even Pettis doesn’t strike fear into the defense that Ross did. Ross’s ability to take the top off the defense created a lot of room underneath. Watching recent games I just don’t see the separation being created and Browning isn’t comfortable with anyone except Pettis to throw up a fifty-fifty ball. Bryant was making a huge difference until his injury because Browning trusted him to come down with a contested catch. I’m sure Tedford had a positive effect but I believe that between the draft and injuries we simply exceeded our effective depth. BTW, same thing for our defensive backfield.

          • Husky73

            Tedford was neither coach nor tutor to Browning. He was an adviser to Petersen.

          • DaleR

            We don’t know what Tedford added to the mix. Did Tedford influence the game plan such that Browning was put in positions favorable to his success? Did Tedford and Browning happen to be at the same lunch table together on a frequent basis? I suspect you’re right that Tedford had a minimal impact on Browning but we really don’t know.

          • Pompous Twerp

            Right. And Petersen never — NEVER — would have taken any of Tedford’s insights to help Browning be a better QB. That would be insane.

  • Husky73

    Desultory? I am puzzled by the amount of criticism out there (and in here) of Jake Browning. Maybe his super-human season of 2016 set the bar too high? But a guy who leads his team to a 9-2 season, throws for 2,500 yards (so far) and roughly 4 TD’s per interception…who has lost his TE, Ross and McClatcher and his best lineman….who has won three Apple Cups and pounded Oregon twice…..who led them to a heroic win last night….who is 21-4 over the past two seasons…..is beloved by his coaches and team mates…he somehow has a weak arm, is a poor game manager and makes bad decisions. In truth, he will go down as the greatest Husky QB of all time.

    • art thiel

      Ahead of Moon Brunell? Not quite ready to go there. Browning’s biggest problem this season is fear of throwing INTs. He lacks trust in his receivers, since he barely knows them. And John Ross would make any QB look great by outrunning mistake throws.

      • wabubba67

        Flick, Chandler, Hobert, Tui, too? Nah.

        • Husky73

          Yes (by FAR), yes, yes and yes. Browning has more wins, more completions, more yards and more TD passes than all of them.

          • wabubba67

            It’s a completely different era. You don’t think that Moon, Tui, Brunell would have thrived in the spread offense era and increased reliance on the passing game? As for better career, I’ll take Moon’s upset over Michigan in the Rose Bowl and the national championship of Hobert/Brunell over anything that Browning has accomplished so far. Browning is a very good college QB, but let’s not get carried away. It’s about opportunity and volume of pass attempts.

          • Husky73

            67… You are making an argument of a “career” with two games for Moon and Hobert/Brunell? I realize “the best” is always subjective…but I find it hard to debate after Browning passes Pickett’s all time yardage and completions, has the most WINS, most yards and most TD passes. What else is there?

          • wabubba67

            Again, a different era presents more opportunities for padded statistics. By your logic, Cody Pickett is among the greatest Husky QBs ever. He’s not even in my top 10.

          • Husky73

            A guy with 9,916 passing yards and 53 TD’s is not in your top ten? The defense rests and accepts your insanity plea.

          • wabubba67

            43 interceptions and a completion percentage that never got out of the mid 50% range doesn’t impress me much.

          • Effzee

            Get a clue, dude. He’s not the greatest and its not even close. As coach Pete would say, “Stats are for losers.” Browning is passing the likes of Keith Price and Cody Pickett on the stats list. I doubt anyone would argue that either of those guys are the Greatest Husky QBs ever, yet they have the best stats.

          • Husky73

            Except that Pete never said that.

          • Effzee
          • Husky73

            Flick 3,100 yards…Chandler 4,100 yards…Tui…5,800 yards (all great Huskies— Tui maybe my all time favorite)…Jake will finish with around 8,000+ this year, plus next year.

      • Husky73

        Yes and yes…as a collegiate QB, Jake Browning has had a better Husky career than either Moon or Brunell. I have no idea what Browning will do in the NFL (if anything). But as a Washington Husky, he’s the best.

  • coug73

    All dawg fans should be, down with Brown, he’s a good leader and highly competitive. All teams are playing without key players, I think the dawgs are well stocked with quality players and should be favored to win the AC. My Cougs will try to match up with the talent the dawgs have while being competitive. The dawgs are the best 9-2 team in the Nation I tell you. We all know the rich get richer and the AC looks like a win for the mighty dawgs. Go Cougs

    • art thiel

      Vegas says pick’em. Huskies have better defense, Cougars have healthier offense, plus an extra week of prep time. May come down to coaching, and Petersen loves to find tiny edges against Leach.