BY Art Thiel 10:59PM 10/06/2018

Thiel: Huskies hang on thanks to Jake the runner

Browning’s 49 yards rushing, most at critical times, helped saved the Huskies from another failure in the Rose Bowl. But the 31-24 win over UCLA exposed some vulnerabilities.

Jake Browning’s 49 yards on 16 carries were a big part of Washington’s win at UCLA. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

The notion of QB Jake Browning as a runner tends to scare Huskies football fans because his four-year tenure has produced some vivid moments not unlike a giraffe falling down stairs. But without his critical rushes Saturday night, the Washington victory drought against UCLA in Pasadena would have added a 24th year.

His 13 carries for 49 yards included five third-down conversions, which proved critical in the Huskies’ 31-24 triumph (box) because the Bruins, 21-point underdogs, proved they were a whole lot better than their 0-4 record entering the game.

“That’s Jake’s game,” said Huskies coach Chris Petersen. “When he moves forward, not backward, slides up in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield, he’s really an effective runner.”

The added weapon — including three quarterback sneaks for first downs, and a third-and-15 scramble for 16 yards — helped the 10th-ranked Huskies to a 24-7 halftime lead, part of 335 yards of offense to that point.

But UW slipped into cruise control and let the Bruins back in. New coach/old nemesis Chip Kelly took some pressure off his freshman quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, by running the ball, which put the heat on a surprised Huskies defense.

The national leaders in scoring defense gave up a season high in points as well as yards — their 422 was two more than the previous best by Auburn in the season opener.

“The momentum changed — those are hard lessons to learn,” Petersen said. “You get up at halftime, and when you go back out (for the second half), you have to re-establish yourself. They did a better job of that than we did.”

Instead of trying to play catch-up through the air, the Bruins ran the ball on the first six plays of the second half. They took five minutes to score a field goal, then after stopping Washington at midfield, took six minutes to go 90 yards on 17 plays for a touchdown  to cut the lead to 24-17.

You could almost hear the demons that have haunted UW’s regular-season trips to the Rose Bowl clear their throats.

“They got under center and knocked us off the ball, then had a short-pass game,” Petersen said. “Kind of a good plan.”

Kelly, who dominated Washington while coaching at Oregon (2007-12), doesn’t yet have the same personnel at UCLA, especially on defense. The Bruins have 52 freshmen on the roster and seven seniors. The Huskies relied on a Kelly staple of a misdirection-laden, run-heavy offense — 55 carries against 26 passes — to wear down the young Bruins.

After an exchange of punts in the fourth quarter, the Huskies put the game out of reach with an 81-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly seven minutes in a fairly remarkable way.

On third-and-6 from the UW 23, Browning checked down to a deep throw to his tallest receiver, Ty Jones, who pulled the ball down 34 yards away at the UCLA 43.

“Play of the game,” said Petersen. “Jake to Ty, and Ty does what he does.”

The next nine plays were all runs, including a 14-yard scramble by Browning and the final four plays from RB Myles Gaskin, who set a school record with the 22nd 100-yard game of his career. He had 116 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, both scores coming on wildcat-formation snaps directly from center. However, Gaskin at the end appeared to be hurting, and reserve Sean McGrew finished out the final possession.

Gaskin’s two-yard TD run for a 31-17 lead came with 3:42 left, but that was plenty of time for the Bruins to blow down the field and score again. Thompson-Robinson completed six of seven passes against the Huskies’ vaunted secondary and closed to 31-24 with 1:38 left. But the ensuing onside kick was recovered by TE Drew Sample and UW ran out the clock.

The Bruins’ winlessness is deceiving, because the combined record of their five opponents is 22-2. And since it was Washington’s fifth win in the series’ past 18 games, there is no diminishing the seasonal significance of the win.

But the game exposed some vulnerability with Washington’s defense. RB Joshua Kelly had 125 yards on 20 carries, and the open-field tackling by UW was less than stellar. It’s a bigger deal now because the next game is Oregon Saturday in Eugene. The 4-1 Ducks had a bye, and had to like some of what they saw in Los Angeles.

And they likely don’t have to be reminded that the Huskies’ last visit produced a 70-21 rout of the Ducks.


YourThoughts

  • 1coolguy

    Dawgs can’t shut down a frosh QB? Ugh….
    Herbert is the real deal, possibly next years’ #1 draft choice.
    UO by 14+

    • art thiel

      Wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Husky73

    Washington did not muster much of a rush on the QB. UCLA picked up the UW rush and blitzes all night, whether the Huskies sent 3, 4 or 5. Thus, the Huskies had zero sacks and zero tackles for loss. The UW’s excellent DB’s can only cover for so long. The Dawgs will need to pressure Herbert much better next week. Gaskin was favoring his shoulder for the entire fourth quarter, but managed to stay in the game and score a critical TD. The Huskies have much to fix before entering the toxic hell that is Autzen Stadium.

    • art thiel

      The absence of an effective pass rush against a frosh QB is the biggest worry Petersen has.

    • ll9956

      I totally agree. The Husky defensive coaches need to figure out a way to achieve a MAJOR improvement between now and next Saturday in order for the Dawgs to have any hope of being competitive against the Ducks.

  • jafabian

    Surprised and disappointed at the Husky defense. This is a Bruins team that they should have been able to shut down but UCLA has always been a problem for the Dawgs no matter the Bruins team that takes the field. Jake also seems to be doing what his Seahawks counterpart Russell Wilson is doing: standing in the pocket more and trying to trust that his WR’s will get open but getting burned by that approach more often than not. Jake did have more success than what Wilson usually does with 13 carries for 49 yards and a TD. Also surprised at the workload that Gaskin had when he was obviously hurting. Hopefully he’ll still be available for next week.

    • 1coolguy

      Jake’s running 13 times is the result of a complete coaching failure. Sorry Hamdan, you blew this one. CP – WHEN are you taking over the play calling? Hamdan is not ready for Prime Time, unless you also believe Jake’s 13 carries are the result of a POSITIVE offensive game plan.

      • art thiel

        Nearly every one of Jake’s scrambles was justifiable, and his 3 QB dives all worked. Getting on the OC is misplaced.

    • art thiel

      Jake had a bad throw, but I didn’t see him getting burned trusting his receivers.

  • Effzee

    Scary. The Ducks are going to boat-race us.

  • woofer

    Many interesting mysteries to ponder — how good is this team really? One imagines they will step up the intensity against the Ducks.

    Browning is an anachronism: Petersen’s last Boise State quarterback. Jake gets quite a bit of mileage out of his talent, especially when he gets time to set up in the pocket. His running is always a surprise. Things could look different next year.

    And what about Chip Kelly? Smart and creative guy, no doubt. But can he actually build and sustain a program from the bottom up? Ya gotta love a guy who looks like a cross between WC Fields and Jabba the Hutt.