As we always do on Sundays during football season, let’s parse positives and negatives from the previous day’s UW game -- this one a 59-14 victory over Idaho.
But first, a few quick links:
--- The Huskies remained at No. 8 in the AP top 25 poll, and moved up two spots to No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll.
--- After a slow first quarter, Washington did what was expected in its rout of Idaho.
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--- The Huskies scored a touchdown just 16 seconds into the game, and they didn’t even receive the opening kickoff.
--- Audio highlights from play-by-play man Bob Rondeau:
--- And some highlights from the Pac-12 Networks:
1. Jake Browning did exactly what he should have against Idaho’s defense.
It would have been difficult for Browning to play much better than he did in Washington’s first two games. He has completed 74.5 percent of his passes for 581 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception, and he’s barely played in the second half.
On Saturday, he took what Idaho’s defense gave him, completing shorter routes and constructing methodical drives. Three of his five touchdown passes were shorter than 10 yards. UW coach Chris Petersen said he still thinks Browning can hang in the pocket a little longer, and that there are still some throws he could make quickly rather than escaping and buying time with his feet (which, by the way, he has also been pretty good at).
But when that’s the chief complaint, things are probably going pretty well.
“He’s done a real nice job,” Petersen said. “I think the thing that’s interesting is, I still think there’s some things we’ll clean up with him. He did a great job of scrambling out there and keeping his eyes downfield. We’ve worked on that quite a bit. That’s going to come up every game. Those plays can actually be hard to defend, so we spent extra time on that, as well.
“But when you go back, what I really want to look at is, did he need to escape? Did he have things 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. But he’s completing a lot of passes, he’s keeping his eyes downfield, buying time. All those things that good quarterbacks do.”
2. A bunch more playing time for the Huskies’ backups.
I wrote in my story today that UW’s victory over Idaho was “meaningless” in the bigger picture of the season, because they will ultimately be judged by how they fare against better teams. And while I certainly believe that to be true, these games do hold a certain measure of meaning for the Huskies’ second and third-string players, many of whom played more this week and last than they have in any game in their career.
K.J. Carta-Samuels is a good example. He’s the backup to Browning at quarterback, but his career playing time has been limited to one ill-fated start last season at Stanford and some minimal mop-up duty. But when the Huskies lead 42-0 after the first possession of the third quarter, Carta-Samuels actually gets a chance to run some real offensive sets and throw the ball a little bit.
Yesterday, he completed 4 of his 5 pass attempts for 67 yards and a touchdown -- a 26-yard pass to redshirt freshman receiver Quinten Pounds -- after throwing the first touchdown pass of his career last week against Rutgers.
Those were important reps, Petersen said.
“I think K.J.’s done a nice job,” he said. “I think it’s real important. It’s great, because so often that’s the guy, the backup or backups, quarterbacks, it’s hard to get those guys some work. He’s gotten good work and he’s actually produced and performed, so I think that’s a good observation, because I thought he was throwing some really good balls, too. Pinpoint strikes. Helps those receivers out.”
Said offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith: “We wanted to pick and choose when to throw it, but you want to give the kid an opportunity to play and show what he can do. He converted a couple of third-down throws and almost threw a second touchdown. That’s the thinking: You want to let the kid play and see where he’s at.”
Also of note was Connor O’Brien’s 48-yard interception return for a touchdown.
3. Dante Pettis looks like a playmaker.
The Huskies needed their junior receiver to step up this season -- after all, he was the team’s top returning pass catcher -- and Pettis has answered that challenge so far. He led UW with 88 yards receiving on six receptions yesterday, including a 21-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the game and a 7-yard score early in the second quarter.
Coupled with his 68-yard punt-return touchdown in the season opener against Rutgers, Pettis has emerged as one of the team’s more reliable playmakers through the first two games. He’s also made a handful of difficult catches to extend drives and help out Browning.
“I’m encouraged about Dante, for sure,” Petersen said. “I think he’s kind of an acrobatic receiver. That’s kind of how I think of him. He can kind of make plays all over the place. I think he’s gaining confidence. I think he’s a really good player. I think he’s gotten better.”
1. The Huskies got going eventually, but the first quarter could have been better.
Hard to say the Huskies didn’t start this game fast, since it took them only 16 seconds to score a touchdown. After that, though, they struggled for a quarter, finishing the first period with an average of just 3.5 yards per play.
That’s not necessarily cause for concern, considering how dominant they were throughout the rest of the game. But again, if we’re picking nits from a game they won by 45 points, this is one of them.
“I think we’re going to get into a rhythm,” Petersen said. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s nice when our defense plays at a high level. It gives our offense a minute to get going. It’s nice to come out like we did the week before and start fast and keep clicking. That doesn’t happen all the time. At least we got points on the board right away. So that was good to do. Like I said, we’re excited to put the tape on and see what we need to do to make things better.”
2. The running game remains a work in progress.
It wasn’t terrible. Myles Gaskin finished with 12 carries for 67 yards -- an average of 5.6 yards per rush -- and a touchdown. The Huskies finished with 140 yards rushing on 30 attempts, an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Petersen wasn’t discouraged by that number. And it’s hard to really gauge the running game when UW played its backups for nearly the entire second half. But he knows they have to improve before the Pac-12 portion of their schedule arrives.
“It was a little bit of a slow, sluggish start,” Petersen said. “We still ran the ball for over four yards per carry, so that’s always positive. But sometimes the running game takes a minute to get going. Sometimes it may not be til the fourth quarter. Now, we’ve got different guys in in the fourth quarter.
“But I think when we play real football and you’re going hard and sometimes it takes a while to wear guys down, and really establish that and get your o-line in rhythm and the running back to see the creases. That’s what I really think about the running game – you’ve got to stay with it, and you’ve got to keep banging away. In the meantime, Jake was accurate in the pass game. I know this – every defense is going to try to stop the run game. I don’t care how many touchdowns Jake throws, they’re first and foremost going to try to stop the run game. So that’s why we need to do both.”
3. Idaho is Idaho.
Just like Rutgers last week, this win is tempered some -- OK, a lot -- by the fact that it came against a, uh, less fortunate opponent. There’s nothing the Huskies can do about that, of course -- they can only play the teams on their schedule -- but it does make it a little tougher to know exactly where this team stands, since they’ve yet to be challenged by an opponent of similar talent.