BY Art Thiel 12:53AM 09/16/2018

Thiel: Huskies’ defense rules the Utah night

All three of Utah’s 4th-quarter possessions began in Washington territory, and the Utes came away with zero points as the defense shone in a 21-7 triumph in Salt Lake City.

RB Myles Gaskin had 143 yards on 30 carries. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

For a game that 10th-ranked Washington seemed to control — no easy feat with Salt Lake City’s altitude and attitude in a sellout crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium — peril seemed perpetually imminent. Particularly after one of the most egregious turnovers in the four-year career of Jake Browning.

The earnest Huskies quarterback again tried too hard. Two minutes into the fourth quarter Saturday night, Browning faced yet another blitz from Utah’s high-risk, high-reward defense. Twice he spun away, but the second time he was falling back. He flung recklessly a wounded duck that went a few yards into the meaty mitts of Utes lineman Pita Tonga at the Washington 32.

The 300-pounder waddled to the 11-yard line before knocking the ball off his hip out of bounds. The break was fortuitous for the Huskies defense, because the 11 yards were just enough margin to stone Utah in the fourth-quarter red zone.

What should have been anywhere from six to 14 points on consecutive possessions instead was zero. The double denial allowed the 21-7 lead to stand for a win (box) in Washington’s Pac-12 Conference season opener, a mutual bludgeoning that could easily have gone awry.

“Physical, physical, physical — as physical a game as we’ve been in in a long time,” said coach Chris Petersen. “Our guys swelled up when they had to, making plays in the red zone when they had to.”

They also were lucky. On a fourth-and-goal play at the one to conclude the short drive, QB Tyler Huntley’s rollout pass went through the hands of TE Conner Haller.

After a UW 3-and-out, Utah again reached the red zone, only to be backed up by a holding penalty. The third-and-25 and fourth-and-16 plays had little shot against a Huskies defense that again is shaping up as one of the nation’s best.

The third of Utah’s three fourth-quarter possessions — all beginning in Washington territory — produced only 11 yards in seven plays.

For the game, Washington, led by LB Ben Burr-Kervin’s 11 tackles and CB Byron Murphy’s four pass break-ups, held Utah to 261 yards of offense, thanks in part to an interception and two fumble recoveries. The vaunted secondary was outstanding, helping hold Huntley to 20 of 39 passing with a long of 16 yards.

They also executed on clean tackling, an increasingly critical element with the rules changes regarding targeting. Utah’s defense lost to ejection two critical players flagged for targeting.

“We spend so much time on that and it does show up,” Petersen said. “We want legal clean hits. Sometimes we’re not going to be perfect on that. They’re bang-bang plays, receivers and ballcarriers are changing directions at the last second.”

The offense was another story, although RB Myles Gaskin’s 143 yards on 30 carries was a masterwork against Utah’s tough front seven. He has 4,326 yards, moving up to seventh on the Pac-12’s all-time career list.

Browning had another so-so passing day, hitting on 14 of 24 passes for 155 yards, a touchdown and the aforementioned brain cramp. But he did help engineer the opening drive, a five-play, 65 yard beauty that concluded with a Gaskin 38-yard TD romp.

“It was awesome, kind of a tone-setter,” Petersen said. “It was important to get out of the gate and establish ourselves.”

Petersen was a long way from throwing his hands up over the lack of consistency.

“I do think our offense will gain confidence from playing against a really good defense,” he said. “We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times. We can still be good, but we have a lot of work to do.”

The work comes ahead of Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. game (ESPN) at Husky Stadium against Arizona State, which was ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll but was upset 28-21 by San Diego State Saturday night.

 


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YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    Art – Where is the master of “tellin’ it like it is”? Jake the Joke was at his worst – possibly you turned to the Ohio State game when the Huskies were on offense? We didn’t convert any third downs – zero – and Jake threw the aforementioned INT while falling backwards – was this the series before or after he threw the ball to no one at the sideline from our own FIVE? Jake simply appears to not have gameday intelligence, the ability to make good things happen. He acts shell-shocked and his hang-dog demeanor is sending the wrong message to both the team and the opposition – he looks defeated.
    He hit one long pass and one short TD, but the rest were short no-counts. Utah played the perfect defense – rush 6 and completely throw Jake off his game. He may have worse feet than Hasselbeck and instead of learning to throw the F’ing ball out of bounds, he brain-locks and tries to SCRAMBLE. OMG will CP please beat it into this guy to NOT scramble?
    Hail to the defense, as you wrote – these guys are tough and will get even better. They are going to send a lot of receivers home with headaches!

    • Effzee

      While I agree with you about pretty much every aspect of Browning’s football prowess (or lack thereof), Jake the Joke is simply not a clever or amusing nickname.

      • art thiel

        Agreed. Please no name-calling of college kids.

        Part of the problem would seem to rest under his knee brace, another part with his surgically repaired shoulder. Petersen will never say so.

        I can’t explain Jake’s response to the emotional pressure, other than he’s human.

    • Husky73

      As I have posted, I am a big Browning fan. But, I have also watched him retreating into oblivion only to throw some crazed pass for the past four years. He HAS to either stand in, or quickly dump off. Trying to force the play is catastrophic. That being said….and no, Haener will not be the QB…Browning is 55-93 for 764 yards, 59.1% completion rate, 4 passing TD’s, 1 rushing TD and 4 INT’s in the first three games. Ask UCLA or USC if they’d take that? Saturday is revenge-time against ASU (and a 7:30pm game time). I hope Browning and the o-line find their groove. And then, BYU looks like a tough one.

      • art thiel

        Browning probably has to learn to trust his teammates more. He can’t think it’s all on him.

  • Talkjoc

    Browning must be watching Russell Wilson’s scrambling techniques. Throw the ball away Jake. Here’s a question maybe you can answer Art, where was Pounds, McClatcher and Ahmed? Each had, I believe, one touch. Oline performed well on running plays,has issues with pass protection. Dawg s will see a ton of blitz package next week.

    • Effzee

      I also want to know where Ahmed is. I keep hearing about this guy’s awesomeness and game-breaking ability, but he’s barely been given a chance. I don’t think he’s had any game threatening turnovers or other misdeeds to limit his time? He averages 6+ yards per attempt. Is it just coach’s choice to play seniors over underclassmen?

      • art thiel

        Critics said for the first two weeks the ball wasn’t being given to Gaskin. Maybe it’s Ahmed’s turn next week.

    • art thiel

      The game plan was run heavy, and Utah was intent on disrupting Browning’s dropback with blitzes, and they did. He had little little time to find intermediate/deep receivers. The O-line was also shuffling players, partly due to injuries. They still don’t know their best five absent Adams.

      • Talkjoc

        Where was Ahmed and Mclatcher? Not really involved.

  • Effzee

    Has Coach Pete ever produced a QB this ramshackle and cringe-worthy? It has to be driving him nuts! This guy is a 4th year starter fercryinoutloud.

    • art thiel

      Believe it or not, he has played well in parts of all three games. But the grimness can’t be unseen.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Browning makes the same kind of mistakes Hasselbeck used to do.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Trying not to be a spoiled fan because Browning is probably the best Husky QB since Tui (Locker couldn’t throw the ball), but it really looks like he’s digressed. Senior QB’s should not be making the decisions he’s making. Hope they get this cleaned up.

    • art thiel

      Regressed? Yes, but if it’s not health-related, I’d say it’s fixable.

      • WestCoastBias79

        ::face palm:: Yes, regressed. That’s up there with Troy Aikman commenting on QB’s overcoming diversity.

  • Husky73

    Biggest play of the game was the Utah drop– a sure score. Also, what is going on with the PUNTING? For 75 years we have had punters punt the ball high and deep. What is with these line drive, short punts?

    • art thiel

      The starter, Whitford, was left home due to injury.