At long last, Jake Browning finally put up the passing numbers Washington fans have wanted all year.
Browning threw for a season-high 354 yards plus two touchdowns in UW’s thrilling 33-30 win over Utah on Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Surely, this outburst was due to a receiver going wild. Right?
Yes and no. Senior receiver Dante Pettis was targeted 10 times which was the most on the team. He had six receptions for 94 yards.
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UW’s top receiver on the evening was junior running back Myles Gaskin. He finished with six catches for a team-high 114 yards and a touchdown.
“Myles, I’ve said all along, he’s such a good pass receiver,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s has got tremendous hands.”
The week started with sophomore Aaron Fuller being the team’s No. 2 receiver. Fuller did catch three passes for 19 yards but Andre Baccellia may provide Browning with another option.
Baccellia, a redshirt sophomore, had four receptions for 57 yards. What made his performance so strong was when he got involved.
He caught two passes for 23 yards on UW’s game-tying drive within the game’s final two minutes.
The biggest haul came in the final drive. Browning, with 17 seconds left, threw a 31-yard dart to Baccellia to reach the Utes’ 21.
Following an incompletion on the next play, it set up Tristan Vizcaino’s game-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired.
“I think it does a lot for the whole team,” Petersen said. “These kids work hard, they really do. They practice hard. They work hard. They study hard.
“But I hope that this gives them a little swag back. ... Not only for Andre but for everybody.”
UW’s defense came up with its biggest stops of the season after having one of its most troublesome stretches of the campaign.
The Huskies (9-2, 6-2) held the Utes’ offense to five plays before Browning engineered the game-tying drive with around a minute left. Once Utah recovered, it was held to a three-and-out and punted which allowed UW to score a game-winning field goal.
Both Stanford and Utah (5-6, 2-5) have provided an insight into what it could take to get points off the Huskies’ defense.
Stanford did it by extending drives and not having very three-and-out series. Utah followed the same model by only having three drives where it went three-and-out. The Utes were also mindful of how it kept the Huskies on the field.
Five of Utah’s 11 drives went more than three minutes.
Utah scored three touchdowns and two field goals on those possessions.
BYRON MURPHY MAKES HIS RETURN
UW was actually able to reinforce its depth at cornerback with the return of Byron Murphy.
The redshirt freshman started the first three games of the season but lost him to a broken foot he sustained in mid-to-late September.
Murphy’s reintroduction was shaky.
He was beat on a slant route by Utes receiver Raelon Singleton for a 40-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley picked on Murphy again when he threw another pass to Singleton for an 11-yard touchdown.
Murphy stayed with his receiver but by the time he looked back, Singleton was already in position to catch a pass on a fade route.
“Its good to have him back out there. He hasn’t practiced a whole bunch,” Petersen said. “Was back last week doing some things. It was his first week of really getting in there but its not like being in that game, so, it was good to get him out there.
“Hopefully, everything held up good.”
MANAGING A TOUGH NOVEMBER
Let’s recap how challenging this month has been for UW.
The Huskies entered the month without emerging freshman tight end Hunter Bryant, who sustained a season-ending leg injury in late October against UCLA.
UW lost receiver redshirt sophomore receiver Quinten Pounds to a season-ending knee injury during a non-contact play at a practice.
Stanford dashed the team’s Pac-12 North hopes by handing UW a 30-22 loss last week at Stanford Stadium.
From there came the news of redshirt senior linebacker Azeem Victor’s arrest for DUI. Petersen announced last Wednesday that Victor was indefinitely suspended for the year.
Come Saturday, the Huskies rallied to beat Utah and set up a highly important Apple Cup showdown against rival Washington State next Saturday.
What exactly has the last month been like for Petersen and the Huskies?
“We talked about it three weeks ago. November football is hard. We looked at our schedule. We knew this was going to be a really hard stretch. ... So you’ve got Stanford, these guys and Wazzu.
“That’s hard football when you’ve lost so many guys and practiced so long. That’s where teams test their mettle. I’m just glad for these guys to get a little bounce in their step.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark