For a quarter, the Washington Huskies appeared on Saturday afternoon as if they might fail to assert the measure of dominance expected against the visiting, here-for-a-paycheck Idaho Vandals.
But that quarter ended. And so did any thought that Idaho might challenge the nation’s No. 8-ranked team.
The Huskies spent the second quarter scoring touchdowns and overpowering Idaho’s offense, creating the separation necessary to rest their starters for nearly the entire second half of this 59-14 blowout at Husky Stadium.
“We just got whupped,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino surmised afterward.
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They did. And so it was that Huskies quarterback Jake Browning traded his helmet for a headset following UW’s first possession of the third quarter, free to watch from the sidelines after tying a school record with five touchdown passes in a little more than one half of action.
The victory, meaningless as it might be in the larger picture of a season that will be defined by how the Huskies perform against better teams, required edits to UW’s record book.
Washington has now scored 40 or more points in five consecutive games for the first time in school history. Browning led five efficient drives that he capped with touchdown passes — two each to juniors John Ross and Dante Pettis, and one to sophomore Chico McClatcher — and finished 23 for 28 passing for 294 yards. At one point, he completed 13 consecutive passes.
“He’s completing a lot of passes, he’s keeping his eyes downfield, buying time,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “All those things that good quarterbacks do.”
Browning’s precision helped the Huskies score 28 points in the second quarter, tied for third-most in a second quarter in UW history.
That’s when the Huskies ran away with this game. They outgained Idaho 233 yards to 9 in the second quarter alone. They tallied 14 first downs and held Idaho to zero. They ran 24 plays in the quarter and scored on four of them — a 7-yard pass from Browning to Pettis, a 30-yard pass from Browning to McClatcher, a 7-yard rush by Myles Gaskin and a 9-yard pass from Browning to Ross — and took a 35-0 lead into halftime.
Washington finished the game with four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
“When our defense is playing at a high level,” Petersen said, “eventually, we’ll get there.”
Unlike last week, when Browning threw touchdown passes of 38, 50 and 43 yards against Rutgers, he settled mostly for underneath routes that led to more methodical scoring drives.
“That was kind of my niche a little bit last year,” Browning said, “so that’s always something I’ve felt good about. We just executed it. Didn’t really do anything crazy. Just executed our stuff, and did it well.”
The first possession of the second half was the last for Browning and UW’s first-team offense. It lasted six plays, it covered 65 yards, and it ended with Browning’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Ross.
Ross, who scored three touchdowns last week, finished with a career-best six catches for 59 yards in addition to his two scores. He was frequently open on quick slant routes, a byproduct of reading the cornerback’s leverage, he said.
“I kind of knew it was going to be there,” Ross said. “And I know when I see something, Jake probably saw it 10 seconds before I did. So I was happy when I saw that look.”
Browning’s backup, third-year sophomore K.J. Carta-Samuels, found redshirt freshman receiver Quinten Pounds for a 26-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, the first score of Pounds’ career. And the Huskies added another touchdown late in the fourth quarter when reserve linebacker Connor O’Briend returned an interception 48 yards for a score.
Washington’s first touchdown came 16 seconds into the game — and the Huskies didn’t even receive the opening kickoff. Idaho receiver Lloyd Hightower did, and he fumbled after a big hit by Huskies safety Budda Baker. UW linebacker Keishawn Bierria recovered at Idaho’s 21-yard line, and Browning scrambled out of the pocket and threw a touchdown pass to Pettis on the next play.
The Huskies (2-0) otherwise struggled to move the ball in the opening quarter, finishing that period with 52 yards of total offense and an average of 3.5 yards per play. Idaho (1-1) nearly tied the score twice during a drive set up by a Browning fumble, first on a pass to the front left corner of the end zone that originally was ruled a catch at the 2-yard line but overturned on review, then again when quarterback Matt Linehan found receiver Jacob Sannon for a gain to UW’s 1-yard line.
But as Sannon struggled for more yardage, he was popped by UW safety Jojo McIntosh, fumbled the ball, and Azeem Victor recovered it for the Huskies at the 1-yard line.
By the time the Vandals finally did get on the scoreboard, they trailed by 42 points in the third quarter, and a sizable portion of the announced crowd of 60,678 had departed Husky Stadium in pursuit of more interesting affairs.
They saw all they needed in the second quarter, anyway.