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Washington Huskies pass toughest test of the season, toppling No. 17 Utah 31-24: Instant Reactions

Sometimes not playing your best is good enough, as the Huskies have found out

NCAA Football: Washington at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies took on their biggest test of the season and came away with an unblemished record. The Dawgs took to the road to topple the 19th-ranked team in the country and a heavyweight in the Pac-12. The game wasn’t without its drama, with both Williamses of Utah having strong moments and Browning making one of the worst plays of his career, but the final score ended with UW on top.

Washington was able to get off to its typical strong start, though it took a bit longer than usual to get going. The Dawgs were forced into a three-and-out on their first possession. Utah wasn’t able to muster much up on its first series either, punting after a single first down. It took until the third UW possession before Washington was able to strike first with a five-play, 84-yard touchdown drive punctuated by Myles Gaskin’s first highlight run of the afternoon.

After three defensive plays, the Huskies’ offense took the field once more, driving 95 yards with a balanced run and pass attack that finished with John Ross’s first score. The drive’s balance (four runs, five passes) showed the unpredictability of a Chris Petersen offense, along with a pitch-throwback-pass from Jake Browning to Gaskin to Browning and finally settling the football into the hands of a completely uncovered Darrell Daniels.

That’s where the Husky dominance ended. Utah RB Joe Williams, as you may have heard, came out of retirement a few weeks ago. The Utes didn’t give him much time to ramp up. He ran the ball 34 times against Oregon State, 29 times (for 332 yards!) against UCLA and then turned in another fine performance against Washington: 35 carries, 172 yards and a score.

Outside of a handful of Elite 11 throws from Troy Williams, his backfield mate carried the offense. Stopping the recently unretired running back was the only thing the Husky defense struggled to do, with the former Husky quarterback going 14-of-31 for 163 yards and two scores.

On the next UW possession, Browning stared down Chico McClatcher down the seam and was picked off with safety Chase Hansen running it back to the Washington 19. From there it took Utah nine plays to make it 19 yards into the end zone. After a third down stop by the defense, Azeem Victor made the ill-fated decision to give Troy Williams a finger wag that gave Utah a free first down, immediately followed by the touchdown from Joe Williams.

Utah had the next two scores of the game, a field goal and a touchdown pass from Troy Williams to Siaosi Williams (how many Williamses can there be?) that was aided by a facemask penalty on Victor during a third-and-goal stop. Utah’s lead lasted four minutes and two seconds.

Browning found Ross for his second score of the day when the normally sure-handed Ross juggled the ball and nearly dropped his second pass. As it was, Washington was able to take a four-point lead that grew to seven on its next possession.

Troy Williams responded with his most complete drive, throwing for 54 yards and a touchdown to tie the game. Browning could only respond with a stalled drive ending in a pooch punt, and Utah was forced to punt as well. Dante Pettis had been quiet up to that point in the game with only two catches for 13 yards. He had the best punt return of his career, making multiple defenders miss while benefiting from a no-call potential block in the back penalty on his way to a score.

From there, there wasn’t another significant play, and the Huskies walked away with an 8-0 record and College Football Playoff hopes still alive.

Instant Reaction Dots:

  • Myles Gaskin has come on strong lately. Some of that has to do with the offensive line gelling but a lot of that has to do with him playing better. He has been able to make defenders miss with much more ease and has broken shoestring tackles in order to keep himself moving forward. Today was his “B button” game, dazzling with multiple spin moves. His final line of 19 carries, 151 yards and a score was the best running back line of the night, with no discredit intended to Joe Williams. Carrying the ball over almost 100 times in three weeks isn’t something I ever want to do. Lavon Coleman also had eight totes for 60 yards, a 7.5-yards-per-carry average.
  • Browning had one of the worst plays of his career, yes, but he wasn’t helped out today. We know Browning will find open receivers when they are there, but he was forced to buy time much more often than normal. He was sacked three times and hit many more. Utah found success blitzing against a Washington offensive line starting a true freshman in Nick Harris at left guard in place of Jake Eldrenkamp. Combining the pressure with less of an ability to hit early reads, Browning is going to have a less than pleasant time getting out of bed Sunday morning.
  • Washington took the proverbial punch in the mouth and fought back. After Utah went on a run and scored 17 unanswered points, the Dawgs were able to respond with 10 of their own. UW went on the road, took Utah’s best shot and was able to respond. All the while, the Dawgs weren’t playing at their best. There shouldn’t be any question that UW could be a worthy playoff team. We’ll see come the first rankings.

What are your instant reactions?