SEATTLE — Jake Browning has thrown for 581 yards and eight touchdowns in Washington’s first two games.
Though Browning as yet to play in a fourth quarter in No. 8 Washington’s victories against lesser opponents Rutgers and Idaho, coach Chris Petersen believes he has even more to offer with a little more refinement.
Browning matched Washington’s school record with five touchdown passes — two each to Dante Pettis and John Ross — and finished with 294 yards in the No. 8 Huskies’ 59-14 romp over Idaho on Saturday.
Browning has helped Washington (2-0) to its highest ranking since 2001.
“He’s done a real nice job,” head coach Chris Petersen said of Browning. “He’s completing a lot of passes. He’s keeping his eyes downfield. He’s buying time, all those things that good quarterbacks do.”
After throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns last week against Rutgers, Browning was nearly flawless against Idaho. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 294 yards and deferred to backup K.J. Carta-Samuels after the opening drive of the third quarter following his fifth touchdown pass of the day, an 8-yard strike to Ross that gave Washington a 42-0 lead.
While the production has been stellar, it’s the process that will yield the consistency needed when conference play begins. That’s where Petersen feels there is still room to grow.
“I think the thing that is interesting is I still think there is some things we’re cleaning up with him,” Petersen said. “When you go back, what I really want to look at is did he need to escape? Did he have things he could have got the ball out? I know on one early on — I think he threw a touchdown — I think he didn’t need to make it so spectacular.”
Against Idaho, it was still more than enough.
Following a fumble on the opening kickoff by Lloyd Hightower that was recovered by Washington, Browning threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Pettis on his first attempt of the game. He completed 13 consecutive passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter as the Huskies built a 35-0 halftime advantage.
“We didn’t really do anything crazy,” Browning said. “Just go in, run our stuff and execute well.”
Browning joined Keith Price (2012), Jake Locker (2010) and Chris Rowland (1973) as the only Huskies to throw five touchdown passes in a game.
The Vandals (1-1) kept it in reach in the first quarter. Kaden Elliss forced a fumble on a sack of Browning to give Idaho the ball in Washington territory. But after driving into the red zone, Jacob Sannon fumbled at the 1 after a hit from Jojo McIntosh, and Azeem Victor recovered to keep Idaho out of the end zone.
“We got whooped,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “We got whooped but I thought our guys stayed fighting in the second half.”
Washington scored 35 straight points afterward before the Vandals finally got on the board with a 20-yard pass from Matt Linehan to Trent Cowan in the third quarter.
Idaho: Idaho lost its road opener against Pac-12 foe USC 59-9 in 2015. The Vandals’ foray against Pac-12 opposition wasn’t much better. The Vandals forced just six incompletions in 33 pass attempts by Washington. They’ll face an even more pass-happy opponent in Washington State next week.
Washington: The Huskies’ defense and passing attack are every bit that of a Top 10 team. However, the rushing attack has struggled in the first two weeks. Myles Gaskin has rushed for just 124 yards through two games after being thought of as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate before the season.
Idaho: The Vandals will face a second straight Pac-12 foe in Washington State. They will make the short eight-mile trip to Martin Stadium for their first meeting in three years.
Washington: The Huskies host FCS Portland State in their final test before the start of Pac-12 play.
Washington will remain in the Top 10 this week after the convincing victory and is likely to stay there into the start of Pac-12 play with another non-conference warmup against FCS Portland State next week.
“They felt like it,” Petrino said about Washington’s No. 8 ranking. “The hitting, hearing the hitting, defensively they definitely felt like it. Offensively, their speed is like it. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re there at the end of the year, that’s for sure.”