SEATTLE – The throw was supposed to go elsewhere, a play-action pop-pass designed for tight end David Ajamu that would have relied more on superior scheme than flawless execution.
Instead, Jake Browning turned it into Exhibit A – or maybe more like Exhibit F or G or H – of just how much the Washington Huskies have upgraded at the quarterback position since last season.
On second-and-goal at Utah State’s 3-yard line, Browning faked a handoff, spun out of a sack attempt with a move he must have borrowed from someone far more athletic, bought some more time, then lofted a touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Drew Sample – a tight end, but not the one the Huskies drew the play for – to put the Huskies ahead 31-10 late in the third quarter.
“Drew is, like, not even a factor on that play,” offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said afterward. “He made the decision to throw it to Drew, and it worked out.”
Washington won 31-17 before a crowd of 59,464 at Husky Stadium, improving to 2-1 going into its Pac-12 opener next week against California. Browning, the true freshman prodigy from Folsom, California, continued to play in a manner that makes it hard to believe there was a quarterback competition during preseason camp.
He completed 22 of his 31 pass attempts for a UW freshman-record 368 yards and three touchdowns, the lone blemish an interception he threw on the first play of the second half.
That throw, which he tried to get to Jaydon Mickens deep up the left sideline, was “a dumb play by me,” Browning said. “You can’t make that throw. That could have been a big momentum shift.”
At the time, the Huskies led 17-10, and they had allowed a late Utah State touchdown to end the first half. Browning’s mistake gave the Aggies a chance to tie a game they otherwise never had a chance to win.
But the UW defense came to the quarterback’s rescue. Junior cornerback Kevin King intercepted a Chuckie Keeton pass attempt three plays later – King’s third interception in three games this season – and UW responded with maybe its most impressive scoring drive of the game.
It covered 78 yards in eight plays, and was capped by Browning’s 33-yard touchdown pass down the middle to a wide-open Dwayne Washington, the Huskies’ junior tailback who scored UW’s first touchdown on an 81-yard, check-down catch-and-run early in the second quarter.
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