Jake Browning felt the pressure, escaped the pocket and scrambled to his right.
It was Washington’s first offensive play of Saturday’s 59-14 pasting of Idaho, and it ended with Browning firing a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dante Pettis — a toss that came one play after UW had recovered an Idaho fumble on the opening kickoff.
But on a day marked by Browning’s five touchdown passes, UW coach Chris Petersen couldn’t help but notice something about Browning’s first.
“When you go back,” Petersen said, “what I really want to look at is, did he need to escape? Did he have things (where) he could have got the ball out? I know he had one early on, I think he threw a touchdown. He didn’t need to make it so spectacular.”
That’s how it was for the Huskies on Saturday: Even when Browning missed, he couldn’t miss.
On the touchdown pass to Pettis, Browning said, he had sophomore receiver Chico McClatcher wide open for a touchdown. He just didn’t see him.
“I scrambled,” Browning said, “and Dante did a good job coming back to the ball, and I thought he played really, really well.”
Pettis said he expected to catch the ball as soon as he came out of his break, but when he saw Browning scrambling in the other direction, he ran around the cornerback toward the back right corner of the end zone.
“I heard everyone start yelling,” said Pettis, who finished this game with six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns, “so I thought he took off to run the ball, and all of a sudden I saw the ball in the air, and I thought, ‘Oh, crap.’ ”
But he caught it, and UW had a 7-0 lead 16 seconds into the game despite not fielding the opening kickoff.
That was thanks to free safety Budda Baker, who pried the ball free from Idaho kick returner Lloyd Hightower. UW linebacker Keishawn Bierria fell on it, and the Huskies offense took the field at Idaho’s 21-yard line.
Baker said his assignment on the play wasn’t necessarily to get to the kick returner that quickly, but “I saw a hole and I just shot it. I wasn’t really supposed to be there.”
Said Pettis: “As an offense, you want to start with the ball anyway. So there’s nothing like that, to kick the ball off, and then get that change of momentum right away. It’s wonderful.”
UW linebacker Connor O’Brien said teammate Jordan Miller, a sophomore cornerback, told him to drop a little deeper into coverage to defend a slant route that Idaho had been running.
So he did. And the Vandals threw it. And he intercepted it and returned it 46 yards for the first touchdown of his career with 3:05 left in the game.
“I just dropped,” said O’Brien, a fourth-year junior, “and just was at the right place at the right time.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson and redshirt freshman cornerback Austin Joyner each sat out with apparent injuries. … Myles Bryant, a walk-on defensive back, became the fifth true freshman to play for the Huskies this season. … The Huskies tied a school record by throwing six touchdown passes in one game. The only other time that happened was in 1970 against UCLA. … UW is 36-2-2 all-time against Idaho.