Jake Browning had no interest in discussing any positives that might have been parsed from his first collegiate start.
The Washington Huskies lost their season opener Friday night to the Boise State Broncos, 16-13, and that was the primary focus of the true freshman quarterback in the immediate aftermath.
“I feel physically sick right now,” Browning said outside the visitors locker room at Albertsons Stadium.
“… I may be encouraged later, but right now it sucks that we lost. So I don’t think there’s any way around that.”
No way around the Huskies’ offensive ineptitude for much of this one, either. The Huskies totaled just 179 yards, rushed for only 29 yards on 22 carries and were only in the game thanks to Dante Pettis’ 76-yard punt return for a touchdown and a game effort by the defense in the second half.
And while Browning at times looked very much like a true freshman, he also provided a few glimpses of the poise and ability that made him such a coveted recruit out of Folsom (California) High School.
He completed 20 of his 35 pass attempts for 150 yards and an interception, settling mostly for short completions as the Huskies failed to run the ball well enough to set up any kind of downfield passing game.
But he showed some savvy, too.
“This is a really hard environment to throw anybody into first time, let alone a freshman,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “But I thought he did some good things. I know there’s a lot of little things that he’s going to tweak right away to help him out.
“… I thought he got out of there a couple times and threw balls away (on plays) that we had nothing, which was good. He ran a couple times, and I think he can run a little bit more. But I think he and we will continue to progress and get better.”
Browning’s most impressive play might have been a completion to Pettis that was wiped out by penalty. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Huskies trailing 16-10 and facing a third-and-6, Browning evaded Boise State’s pass rush, improvised, then found Pettis open near the sideline for what appeared to be a 15-yard gain. But Pettis was penalized for illegal touching, and the Huskies had to punt.
Browning also led the Huskies into field-goal position on their final drive, finding Pettis for a 17-yard gain on second-and-15 to BSU’s 19-yard line.
His youth showed on that possession, too. The play before he found Pettis, Browning took a 5-yard loss on a sack. Two players after the completion to Pettis, he took a 10-yard loss on a sack. And after UW moved to the BSU 29-yard line — where Cameron Van Winkle eventually missed a 46-yard field goal that could have tied the score — Browning spiked the ball with 21 seconds left instead of checking with Petersen on the sideline.
“Personally, I didn’t think I gave him the best chance to make the field goal,” Browning said. “We got the ball down in easy field goal range. Wink’s a great kicker, and we can’t have stuff like that (holding penalty and sack) on offense at the end of the game. That doesn’t feel great at all.”
Petersen described most of Browning’s errors as “a bunch of little things. It wasn’t game-changing or game-costing, but just some management things we’ve got to work through.”
The coach mostly lamented UW’s inability to run the ball, saying that “knowing how good (Boise State’s) defense is, I still thought we’d be able to run it better than we did. We didn’t run it worth anything tonight.”
K.J. Carta-Samuels also took a few snaps at quarterback, though never consecutively. “We have a little bit of a package for he/Jeff (Lindquist),” Petersen said. “Looks like he’s just going in there and handing off, but there’s some read-type stuff. He also may change the play up there. We want to keep all those guys involved.” Lindquist held for place kicks, but did not play any quarterback due to an ankle injury. … Van Winkle made his first two field goals of the game before missing from 46 yards with 21 seconds left. The junior kicker made 20 of his 23 attempts last season. “That’s not on him,” Petersen said of the miss. “He had a little breeze in his face. It was right there. I thought he was going to make it. I’ll say something to him: Keep doing what you’re doing. That was a long, tough field goal.” … Eight true freshmen made their collegiate debuts for the Huskies on Friday: Browning, tailback Myles Gaskin, receivers Isaiah Renfro and Chico McClatcher, defensive backs Austin Joyner and Jordan Miller, and linebackers Tevis Bartlett and Ben Burr-Kirven.