Before we take a look back at positives and negatives from Washington’s 70-21 rout of Oregon on Saturday, let’s look at a few links ...
--- Here is my story from Autzen Stadium, where a stunned crowd watched the Huskies finally end their 12-year losing streak against the Ducks.
Here are the video highlights from the Pac-12 Networks.
And the audio highlights from play-by-play man Bob Rondeau.
Also, a note that due to logistical issues stemming from Hurrican Matthew, the USA Today coaches poll and the Associated Press top 25 will each be released on Monday instead of Sunday.
1. Jake Browning.
It is indeed time to regard Browning as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. The sophomore quarterback’s numbers through six games have exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. He leads the country with 23 touchdown passes -- UW’s single-season record is 33, set by Keith Price in 2011 -- and has thrown only two interceptions. He leads the country in passing efficiency. He is completing 72.2 percent of his passes, good for fourth in the country. He is averaging 9.8 yards per attempt, good for fifth in the country. And save for the Arizona game, he’s barely played in the fourth quarter.
Browning’s six touchdown passes against Oregon set a single-game school record, and his eight total touchdowns -- he had two rushing, on runs of 1 and 7 yards -- tied a Pac-12 record. He has already thrown seven more touchdown passes this season than he did all of last year (16). And he was a stunning 12-for-12 for 163 yards when passing on first down.
As always, UW coach Chris Petersen tried to distribute some the credit to the Huskies’ other offensive players -- and, indeed, John Ross and Dante Pettis were both outstanding on Saturday.
“He’s been playing at a high level, obviously,” Petersen said. “I think our receivers have been playing at a really good level. I think there’s a good mix of throwing deep, and most guys know these guys can run, so they’ll play off, and then Jake will just take what they give him. So it’s been a good cat and mouse game, and it’s usually right. Both those guys, John Ross and Dante made tremendous catches a couple different times, and that’s what you have to have to really keep moving the chains and have something special happen.”
And as always, Browning said he was simply doing his job.
“Everyone’s going to talk about the yards and touchdowns,” Browning said, “but for me, it’s just doing my job, going through my reads. I didn’t think there was anything outside of what I was supposed to, so that’s just to Coach (Jonathan) Smith for preparing us all the right way. I did my job trying to stay within the offense, not trying to do too much because it’s a rivalry game. I just tried to do my job.”
2. Another fast start.
The Huskies tried everything last season to fix their habit of slow starts. It was a problem all year. It has not been a problem this year.
They raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and a 35-7 lead at halftime, further padding their already impressive statistics in those periods this season; UW has now outscored its first six opponents 79-7 in the first quarter and 169-24 in the first half.
For the second time this season, the Huskies scored in the first two minutes of a game in which they did not receive the opening kickoff, Browning capping a 30-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run after Budda Baker intercepted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on the Ducks’ first offensive play.
“We really don’t talk about that,” Petersen said of UW’s fast starts. “In fact, we almost tell them, ‘hey, if it doesn’t start fast, don’t worry about it. We’ll get into a rhythm,’ because they’ve started so fast every game. But it’s awesome to come on the road and start like that. I think that sets the tone.”
3. The running game is probably fine.
Granted, Oregon’s defense is ... well, not great. But the Huskies again dominated the line of scrimmage offensively, rushing for 378 yards on 45 carries -- an average of 8.4 yards per rush. Myles Gaskin had a career-best 197 yards on 16 carries, including a 65-yard touchdown run and another run of 68 yards.
Lavon Coleman had 6 carries for 60 yards. Jomon Dotson had 12 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The Huskies now rank 10th nationally in yards per rush at 5.92.
“I think he’d probably be the first to tell you,” Petersen said of Gaskin, “when the big fellas up front can cover guys up, he’s such a patient guy, you kind of saw him getting back to that, then you’ll find that crease and he has deceptive speed and he can go. So it was good to kind of get him going in a rhythm.”
1. The defense didn’t completely dominate.
Look, the Huskies beat Oregon 70-21 at Autzen Stadium. There really aren’t any true negatives from a performance like that. And UW’s defense made more than enough plays -- Baker’s interception, Jojo McIntosh’s strip of Royce Freeman, a couple fourth-down stands, two big sacks to set up UW’s final touchdown of the first half -- to help the Huskies win this game.
But UW did allow 409 yards of total offense, an average of 5.3 yards per play, which is more than acceptable against an offense as talented as Oregon’s, but maybe not quite as stout as the Huskies hoped.
Again, we’re picking nits here.
The Huskies were flagged 12 times for a total of 89 yards, including Browning’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a personal foul for a late hit, two illegal touching penalties, a kick-catch interference call and an illegal block on a punt return that Pettis returned for a touchdown.
None of them mattered, obviously. But similar sloppiness can have more significant consequences in closer games.
3. Chico McClatcher and Shane Brostek missed the game due to injury.
Petersen said he thinks both players will be ready for UW’s next game -- Oct. 22 vs. Oregon State, after the upcoming bye week -- but that he isn’t totally sure. That’s good news in that it means neither injury is considered long-term, and neither absence impacted the Huskies on Saturday.
Still, getting those guys back -- especially McClatcher, who entered Saturday as the team’s leading receiver -- will be important for future games against better opponents.
“We think we’re going to have them back for our next game,” Petersen said. “That’s what we think, but you never know. Some guys recover faster than you think and slower, but right now we think we’ll have them back.”