BY Art Thiel 12:38AM 11/04/2018

Thiel: ‘Pissed-off’ Browning does enough for UW

Furious with his brief benching at Cal, Jake Browning responded with a big first half against Stanford that was just enough for the Huskies to survive, 27-23. Myles Gaskin helped too.

QB Jake Browning kept the ball for a touchdown on Washington’s first drive. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The cold wind off Lake Washington Saturday night was no match for the heat coming from Jake Browning.

For a while, anyway.

Furious over a benching for two series in an upset loss at Cal a week earlier, Browning turned his anger into two of the best drives of Washington’s season. But after the adrenaline that powered a 21-0 halftime lead dwindled, the Huskies found themselves hanging on for dear life against relentless Stanford that, for want of an extra point, probably would have prevailed.

However harrowing it was to have a home game come down to a final-play interception in the end zone, the Huskies won, 27-23 (box). They proved they were capable of getting off their lips, but did little to establish that UW (7-3, 5-2), along with most everyone else in Pac-12, is any better than the next guy.

As for Browning, who has started every game in his four years and had never been benched until the Cal game, he had a little something to get off his chest.

“We sat down, and I didn’t shy away from the fact that I was pissed off about it,” he said, speaking to the media for the first time since the incident. “I think anyone in that situation would be pissed off. I was, and I’m not going to lie about that.

“I decided to move on, not let it affect our season. We sat down, hashed it out. I think it’s a little bump in the road. But coach Petersen, he’s my guy. Been through a lot with him. I tried to handle it as maturely as possible, try not to let it turn into some huge drama, or whatever.

“I tried to move on to this game. I figured if we win this game, we’ll feel a lot better. Luckily, we did that.”

Good of him to mention luck. It may have been decisive, at least if you believe kicking into the wind involves a fair amount of randomness.

After Stanford (5-4, 3-3) scored with 3:24 left on 33-yard touchdown pass from QB K.J. Costello to WR Trenton Irwin, PK Collin Riccitelli missed the extra point wide right. It was a shank, but who knows if he was over-compensating for the gusts?

The 27-23 deficit meant the Cardinal, after forcing Washington to punt after a five-play final possession, needed a touchdown to win instead of a tying field goal to force overtime.  Costello seemed up for it in the final 2:05, completing four of six passes to reach the Washington 34-yard line with three seconds left.

He had the good fortune of going against a depleted UW secondary. Starters Jordan Miller and Myles Bryant were out with injuries, and S Jojo McIntosh was ejected in the second quarter following a penalty for targeting.

But S Taylor Rapp was still there. Costello launched his Hail Mary, seeking one among the stable of power forwards Stanford had at tight end. Instead, he found Rapp at the goal line, making the Huskies’ third and most vital interception of the game.

The Cardinal comeback was nevertheless remarkable. Stanford didn’t have a first down until 11:35 remained in the first half, then wound up with 22, three more than Washington. They also had 424 of yards total offense, 53 more than the Huskies.  Washington’s continuing puny pass rush sacked Costello just once, and at times seemed helpless, giving up all 23 points in the final 25 minutes.

Once the whiplash response to the 12-10 loss in Berkeley subsided, Washington seemed spent. Petersen suggested the week took its toll.

“That last week was really hard,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. When you lose any games, it’s hard. On top of not scoring many points, all the offense, the players, the coaches, felt the weight of the world on their shoulders.

“You want to get it fixed, to go play and try to get it right. We made some strides tonight.”

The guy with the most strides was RB Myles Gaskin. After missing two games to rest a sore shoulder, Gaskin had 152 yards in a startling 28 carries. His six-yard touchdown run with 2:31 left in the first half put the Huskies up 21-0, and all seemed right and just in the purple world.

Then Stanford came ripping back.

“Credit coach (David) Shaw,” Browning said.  “They stick to their stuff. They did the same (against Oregon). They did not panic at all. Usually people force stuff up, they didn’t at all.”

Forcing stuff up has been an occasional Browning trademark. But he made no turnovers while completing 16 of 27 passes for 194 yards. Yet there were times when Browning pulled the ball down to run, often coming up short of a first down. Apparently, that was part of Stanford’s plan.

“They dropped a bunch of (defenders), and we were in max protect, with three guys running routes,” he said. “Early in the season, I would have tried to run backward and make stuff happen. Now, I try to get forward and stay at second and five instead of second and 12.”

If true, that is a small sign of progress for the beleaguered Browning.

He rushed for the 16th TD of his career to get UW’s first touchdown, and threw for his 91st career TD in the second quarter. That put his career of total TDs at 107, fifth all-time in Pac-12 history. Yet he is roundly criticized for his mistakes, to the point where even his coach faltered on him.

Petersen, was not surprised Browning was raging.

“If he wasn’t upset and really pissed he got pulled out, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to put him back in,” he said. “That’s Jake, he’s a competitor and fighter. That’s happened to me back in the day. I know what it feels like. It’s different than the safety or tackle getting pulled out. He understood what I was trying to do.

“I’m pleased with him, but I knew he would respond like this.”

Throughout his career, Browning has deferred credit. For once, he gave himself a pat on the back.

“I’ve fought through a lot of things in my career, and felt like I responded well to all of them,” he said. “You can question a lot about me, but I’m pretty mentally tough.”

Tough enough to beat Stanford. And the critics. For a week, anyway.


  • 1coolguy

    Pissed? PULEEZE – I put this whole QB debacle, and that is what it is, squarely on CP’s shoulders. If UW had done a decent job both recruiting and training their backup QB’s, and let the starter know the backup can replace him at any time due to poor performance, then what’s to be pissed about?
    CP has handled his boy Jake with kid gloves, for some unknown reason, for four years, and as a result has really hobbled the program.
    Then you have the manner CP pulled Browning – It was obvious Haener was not ready to go into the Cal game, so what did CP (Hamdan?) do, simply tell him he was going in on the next series? I highly doubt Haener was given any heads up, and it was obvious he went into the game cold.
    I have a LOT of espect for what CP has built at UW, but this QB fiasco is just that, and is more than just a head scratcher.

    • art thiel

      It is all on Petersen. And Browning is entitled to be pissed in how it was handled. But your bigger picture of “backup” QBs isn’t accurate. K.J. Carta-Samuels would done better, but he transferred out, as do many decent QBs who can’t oust the incumbent. The idea of seamless succession went away years ago. And the Huskies hired stud Jacob Eason for next season, so Haener likely will transfer out.

      Nevertheless, Petersen acted on impulse without thinking it out. His bad.

  • ll9956

    Near the end of the first half the Huskies had the ball inside the Stanford 25-yard line, 4th down and 8 yards to go, ahead 21-0. CP decided to go for a first down rather than a FG try. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The first down attempt failed. The result was the Huskies came away with zero points and turned the ball over to Stanford. As far as I’m concerned that was one of the worst coaching decisions I’ve ever seen. Can’t fathom what CP was thinking!!!

    • art thiel

      He said afterward, “I don’t like field goals.” Poor answer.

      • unknownone

        I’m legitimately curious to know what you would consider to be a “good” answer to that question? “Based on what I’ve seen in games and practices this season I didn’t trust my true freshman field goal kicker to get it done?” Though it would have had the “virtue” of brutal honesty, shattering your young kicker’s confidence by calling him out post-game so publicly is likely not in the team’s long-term best interests. I think good arguments can be made for attempting the field goal in that situation— up three scores, not the end of the world if he misses, let’s see if we can get him some confidence on a longer (42 yards) field goal in a relatively non-pressure situation. But sitting in husky stadium last night I had no problem with the decision to go for it given how dominant both the offense and defense had been to that point in the game, not to mention the winds swirling through the stadium at the time. A successful field goal was far from a certainty, and after seeing them convert on a longer fourth down on an earlier drive, I had more confidence they’d convert again than I did that Henry would hit the field goal. Hindsight is always 20-20.

        • 1coolguy

          Going for the 1st on 4th and 8 is idiocy – this wasn’t North Dakota. Very poor coaching decision.

          • unknownone

            If your field goal kicker is chuck Nelson or Jeff jaeger, then yes, it’s idiocy. Henry is 1/3 on field goals from 40-49 yards this season with a long of 41. That would have been a 42 or 43yard attempt depending on the spot, and into the wind at that. You think they don’t kick 40+ yard field goals in practice? I’d bet a sizable chunk of my next paycheck that Petersen goes into each and every game with a yardline he believes they must reach before a field goal becomes the better option on fourth down based on data from games and practices and supplemented by observations of his accuracy from distance during warmups. Petersen took all that into account and decided that going for it was the better decision. If you’re going to criticize that decision on the basis that it didn’t work, you’d better be prepared to criticize the decision to eschew a 46 yard field goal on 4th and 11 from the 29 on the second drive of the game. Of course, you’re silent about that one because they converted and it led to a touchdown.

  • Talkjoc

    Let’s hope the Dawgs fire Hamdan in the off season. There’s a bevy of young QB’s waiting in the wings. Not sure he’s the guy to lead the offense. Horrible scheme in the second half. No crossing routes to free Fuller, Jones or Baccellia. Even with the wind issue that field goal should have been attempted when up 21-0. No creative offense, need new OC.

    • art thiel

      Petersen made the call on FG. A bad one.

      Hamdan has made rookie mistakes, Especially in not recognizing how Stanford changed their pass coverages.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    The Cougs were just as “lucky” to beat Cal last night . And Utah lost . Art’s right , Pac-12 games this year are a toss up . The Apple Cup aught to be a good game .

    Quick change of subject ; Bruce Irvin anyone ? Raiders released him . Chucky’s fire sale continues ..

    • art thiel

      I don’t remember a Pac-12 season without a dominant team or two, and I don’t consider WSU dominant until they win out. Not with their November history.

      Regarding Irvin, I wouldn’t put it past the Seahawks, but I think his NFL expiration date has come.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Got the score wrong, Art. If in fact it had been 27-24 at the end, Stanford would likely have tied it with a field goal. But it was 27-23, which is why they were throwing into the endzone on the last two plays…

    • Bruce McDermott

      Actually, you got the score wrong at the beginning, but right in the middle! Who knew?? :)

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Browning’s a great kid, and he came out looking pretty good as to how he handled the awkward situation that was handed to him. I’ve been nothing but impressed with him from day one.

    Regarding his abilities, maybe he peaked early and plateaued – I wouldn’t trade that rise in ability back then for a lesser ability and then peaking now. There’s other variables that he’s had the blessing of having at times (e.g. Dante Pettis, Miles Gaskin, Chico McClatcher, etc.), and then the times absent of valuable protection and talented receivers. Through it all he has maintained a consistently calm demeanor, which is something that I greatly admire.

    While the Dawgs have plummeted in the polls, I don’t know that they ever asked for the early high ranking. If I had a choice, I’d always prefer them to play the underdawg and let their performance determine their ranking. Instead of lamenting about their recent fall from the polls, this is the time that we should be celebrating the blessing of having had Jake be the starter for all of these four years, and what he and Miles Gaskin have accomplished, while others wait in the wings to take their place next year. This is a rare talented pair. I will enjoy every offensive snap that I CAN see for the rest of the season, as I’ve done the last four years – that is, when they’re not on the blasted and overrated PAC12 Network!

    GO DAWGS!!

  • woofer

    Maybe the fiendishly clever CP actually wanted to deeply piss off the laconic and complacent Browning. Light a fire under him for the rest of the season, not just the remainder of the Cal game. If the Huskies win out, they still manage to nab the Pac-12 North title and make it into the championship game. They never had any other realistic goal to play for.

    • art thiel

      Never thought Browning was laconic or complacent. Don’t judge these kids by their interviews. Petersen coaches them to be mundane, which is a disservice to them.