As if another inconsistent offensive performance wasn’t bad enough — and against the defensively challenged Oregon Ducks, no less — the Washington Huskies now might have some uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Jake Browning, UW’s true freshman starter, threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jaydon Mickens with 3:35 left in the Huskies’ 26-20 loss to Oregon on Saturday night. But Browning apparently injured his right throwing shoulder earlier in the series, when he was slammed to the ground by a Ducks defender, and he remained on the sideline when the Huskies got the ball back with 1:11 to play.
K.J. Carta-Samuels, a redshirt freshman, took over in relief, and threw an interception with 24 seconds to play.
Afterward, UW coach Chris Petersen said he didn’t have much of an update on Browning’s status. The TV broadcast showed trainers trying to stretch Browning’s shoulder, but he couldn’t get it loose enough to come back into the game.
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Asked if he fears that Browning’s injury might keep him out long-term, Petersen replied: “I don’t think so, but I hope not. I really don’t. They came over and said when Jake was trying to loosen it up, it just didn’t seem like it was going to go.”
Petersen said a few weeks ago that he wasn’t sure who would replace Browning should he get hurt. It appears now, obviously, that it would be Carta-Samuels, who has attempted three passes in his college career. Fourth-year junior Jeff Lindquist is Washington’s third option at quarterback.
Carta-Samuels, Petersen said, has “been practicing pretty well and throwing some good balls and that kind of thing. It’s a little unfortunate we had to put him in in that situation to see if he could really operate not in a panic-frantic mode.”
The Huskies didn’t operate all that well in any mode against the Ducks, who rank last in the conference in scoring defense. UW did average more yards per play than Oregon (6.2 to 5.8), and freshman tailback Myles Gaskin again impressed with 155 yards on 18 carries.
But it wasn’t until Gaskin’s 72-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter that the Huskies (3-3, 1-2 in Pac-12) found the end zone. And even when they scored in the fourth quarter to pull within one score of the Ducks (4-3, 2-2), it took the Huskies 5:22 as they operated at a shockingly slow pace for a team trying to make up a two-touchdown deficit with less than 10 minutes left.
Asked about the deliberate pace, Petersen said he wished the Huskies didn’t have to call their second timeout with 3:41 left, before Browning’s final touchdown pass — confusion necessitated that decision — but said he thought “everything else was OK.” Later, Petersen conceded that the offense could have displayed more urgency.
“We were changing some groups,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said. “We were feeling it was a two-score game. We were trying to get a couple of calls in there. We spent a little time in the end that in hindsight we would have taken back, but we needed to make sure we got the one for sure.”
Through six games, the Huskies are tied for 60th nationally with an average of 5.7 yards per offensive play — not a terrible mark, but they’re averaging just 5.07 yards per play against Pac-12 opponents.
Only Oregon State averages fewer in conference games.
“We weren’t firing on all cylinders,” senior receiver Jaydon Mickens said. “We came out slow. It happens. We just have to go back to the drawing board and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Against Stanford (5-1, 4-0), that will be easier said than done.
“We’re just so inconsistent,” Petersen said after the loss. “Untimely penalties, not converting third downs we really should be able to convert, those types of things. It just seemed like the timing was off. It seemed like you could feel some youth out there today.”
Evidence that despite the previous week’s upset of USC, there is plenty of work ahead for UW.
The Huskies played without two important contributors on Saturday night: junior tailback Dwayne Washington and junior defensive lineman Joe Mathis. Washington sustained an apparent knee injury during warm-ups, though Petersen said he doesn’t think it will keep him out long-term. Mathis’ ailment was pre-existing. … UW linebacker Travis Feeney left the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Petersen didn’t have an update on his status.
SATURDAY: Washington (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12 North) at Stanford (5-1, 4-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPN, 1000-AM, 97.3-FM