Game Ball Goes To: Jake Browning
On yet another day when the Washington running game couldn't get much of anything going (more on that later), Browning was electric, turning in a 368 yard and three touchdown performance against Utah State. It is becoming clear that the strength of Washington's offense is in its passing game, and that the Dawgs will go as far this year as Browning is able to take them. Fortunately, Jake's grasp of the game is improving every week, and he looks every bit the part of an upper-tier Pac-12 quarterback. Now, his biggest test will come in the form of Pac-12 defenses that will provide a greater challenge than anything he saw against his FCS and Mountain West competition.
Who Stepped Up: Kevin King and Azeem Victor
On the defensive side of the ball, King and Victor have demonstrated their versatility by becoming two of the unit's most important leaders. King snagged his third interception in as many games, equaling first-round draft pick Marcus Peters' eight-game total from last year, and Victor registered 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss, in the first 30 minutes of Saturday's contest. In particular, Victor seems to have heard loud and clear the message Chris Petersen sent him by benching the playmaker for most of last week's contest following his personal foul penalty, and struck a great balance of playing with ferocity until the whistle (and not after) Saturday.
Most important play: Tristan Vizcaino's fake field-goal touchdown
Up just 10-3 in the second quarter, Dwayne Washington was stuffed on a third-and-goal run, and Vizcaino trotted out to attempt the field goal. Instead of kicking the ball through the uprights, though, the kicker took the direct snap and caught the Utah State special teams unit off-guard, beating them in a race to the corner of the end zone. (It bears mentioning that Vizcaino narrowly avoided blowing the surprise when the officials neglected to call a false start penalty on him for jumping early.) Momentum is a hugely important factor in college football, and that play put a decisive wind into the sails of the Dawgs and Husky Stadium, and sparked a 21-point run that ended up carrying Washington to victory.
Most Important Statistic: 12-12, 177 yards, two touchdowns (Jake Browning's stat line after throwing an interception at the start of the second half)
One of the knocks against using true freshmen quarterbacks, aside from their need to adjust to the speed of the college game, is that they have trouble letting go of their mistakes: Interceptions and missed throws weigh on their minds, and before you know it, you're dealing with a case of the dreaded yips. Jake Browning, however, is beginning to make observers wonder if he's not coated in Teflon. After throwing a pick on the first play after halftime, Jake didn't stew in frustration and beat himself up. Rather, he merely went out and completed 12 consecutive passes that yielded 14 points in the most impressive performance he has turned in during his young career. It's exceedingly rare for a young player to maintain his composure as well as Jake has, and is no doubt a huge reason why he's UW's starting quarterback and not wearing a redshirt, as many of us (myself included) expected.
Surprise of the Game: The secondary's performance after losing Budda Baker
After Baker left the Utah State game in the first quarter with an ankle injury that ended up keeping him from returning for the remainder of the contest, there had to be a good deal of concern that fifth-year quarterback Chuckie Keeton might be able to exploit a Washington secondary that was suddenly down its (and perhaps the team's) best player. However, defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake showed why he's earning his paycheck when his players did their part in shutting down the passing game by holding Keeton to 5.2 yards per attempt and intercepting him twice, including a 96-yard return by Brandon Beaver that would have gone for a touchdown had
Sidney Jones Kevin King been more cognizant of his blocking responsibilities. Make no mistake, though: Cal's Jared Goff will offer a challenge beyond anything the Huskies have faced so far, and Budda Baker will be an absolute necessity if the Dawgs are to stage the upset Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Biggest Source of Frustration: The continued woes of the running game
In two games against FBS opponents, the Huskies have gained a pitiful 103 yards on 57 carries, for an average of 1.81 yards per attempt average. For comparison, that average would have ranked the Huskies 127th in the country last year, behind Washington State (shudder) and ahead of only the lowly Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. This week, Washington's running game vs. Cal's rushing defense will be a case study in what happens when a very stoppable object meets an eminently movable object, as the Golden Bears are coming off of yielding 286 yards on 52 carries (5.50 average) and six rushing touchdowns to the Texas Longhorns. If Myles Gaskin, Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman are going to join their offensive linemen in jump-starting UW's rushing attack, it's going to have to happen soon.