No matter how well each individual performed against Oregon, the focus is on the fact that the Huskies finally broke “The Streak.” Even then, the purpose of this feature is usually (see last week for the exception) about finding standout individual performers in the midst of a team game.
Offensive Game Ball: Jake Browning
Browning is a Heisman candidate. He doesn’t have the raw passing yards of many other big-time quarterbacks, but he is far-and-away the most efficient offensive player in college football.
Jake Browning throws a TD pass every 6.5 attempts vs FBS teams.— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) October 10, 2016
2015 Watson: 14.2
2014 Mariota: 10.8
2013 Winston: 9.6
2012 Manziel: 19.7
He leads the country in passing touchdowns. No, he isn’t Deshaun Watson or Lamar Jackson with his legs, but shoulders-up he is the best quarterback in the country. Last season he was great when he could be in rhythm, hit his back foot and know where to go. He made the leap this year.
Browning has improved his ability to progress through his reads. His ability to do just that was the only thing he would talk about when reporters asked him post-game to comment on the fact that he had eight total touchdowns. Even if Browning had a pair of peg legs he still would be among the better quarterbacks in the country. Among pocket quarterbacks he is exceedingly mobile — three rushing touchdowns so far this season.
That hasn’t even touched upon his game against Oregon. Eight total touchdowns: six passing, two on the ground. His receivers were making plays, definitely, but Browning’s final stat line can't be attained only by having an elite receiving core: 22-of-28, 304 yards and six six-pointers. No interceptions (though he really should have had one) and a 240. 5 efficiency rating. That was his highest of the season. Six touchdowns, six incompletions.
Defensive Game Ball: Greg Gaines
If you have been reading John Sayler and Brad Johnson’s tape series, you know that Gaines usually lines up at 2-tech (if you haven’t been, open a new tab and just read all of them). 2-tech defensive linemen usually have a very simple responsibility: control the guard across from you and force a double team from the center to allow the linebackers to make plays unblocked. If a head-up defensive lineman is causing havoc in the backfield, it usually means the opposing offensive line is having communications issues.
Sometimes it is because the defensive lineman is busting double teams. Gaines had two of the team’s three sacks. They were the only plays where he put a tally on the stat sheet, but his presence was felt throughout the game. He continually forced Royce Freeman to have to avoid both the A-gap and the B-gap to his side. Freeman is best as a downhill runner; forcing him to run away from the designed gap is an effective strategy to slow him down. It’s what Gaines did.
Freeman still averaged 4.5 yards per carry but he wasn’t able to consistently create positive Gaines, with 22 of 52 yards coming on a single tote. Gaines was the main reason for it.
Most Important Play: Jake Browning’s Taunting Touchdown
Chris Petersen has probably created a new orifice somewhere on Browning after the game for this, but Browning’s finger wag was 12 years of pent-up frustrations from Husky fans released. Personally, I stood, laughed and clapped. As soon as his finger went up, I knew the Dawgs were in for a great game. Order had been restored.
From that point, UW was in the driver’s seat. It was the first of the Huskies’ four consecutive touchdowns to open the game and put their collective feet on Oregon’s throat. The touchdown also signified a trend: Browning was going to make plays with his feet in addition to his arm. Removing sacks, he had four carries for 33 yards. Even with the ability to gain yards on the ground, Browning is much more of a run-to-pass quarterback, with multiple strikes thrown from outside the pocket.
Most Impressive Play: Dante Pettis’ One-Handed Touchdown
Just for fun, here is Pettis’ other highlight of the night:
That'll play, Dante Pettis. pic.twitter.com/Jcu3IigA3U— Stephen Nelson (@Stephen__Nelson) October 9, 2016
Most Encouraging Takeaway:
The Huskies control their own destiny from here on out. Win out and it will be impossible for the playoff committee to keep Washington out of the playoff. The road isn’t going to be easy. Utah and Washington State are each going to be tests, and anything can happen in the Pac-12 Championship game.