After Boise return, Washington moves on with freshman QB
SEATTLE (AP) Chris Petersen jumped on the question before it was even finished, happy to put the hoopla around his return to Boise State firmly in the past.
With the return to the blue turf out of the way, Petersen and the Huskies can move forward from the 16-13 loss to the 23rd-ranked Broncos focused squarely on improving an offense that for the foreseeable future will be under the control of freshman quarterback Jake Browning.
After a week of speculation, Browning took the first snap under center last Friday against Boise State, becoming the first true freshman to start at quarterback in Washington's history and Petersen's coaching career.
His results were mixed. He finished 20 of 34 passing but for only 150 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per attempt. He threw one interception and failed to get Washington's offense into the end zone. But despite the struggles and lack of big plays, Browning had the Huskies on the cusp of a late comeback driving into field goal range in the closing moments only to see Cameron Van Winkle's 46-yard attempt that would have forced overtime miss wide right by just inches.
After the game, Browning was angry and unwilling to take any positives from his debut performance. Petersen said that falls in line with what he's seen from Browning since the freshman arrived on campus in January.
''His demeanor is always kind of the same to me and that's one of the things we like,'' Petersen said. ''If he does something pretty good it seems the same. He's pretty analytical, pretty clinical. I think he's really competitive.''
Petersen's offensive frustration from the loss centered on a running game that never got started and the inability to throw downfield. Washington was limited to 29 yards rushing on 22 carries, just the 11th time since 1996 the Huskies have been held to fewer than 30 net yards rushing. Dwayne Washington, who closed the 2014 regular season with three straight 100-yard rushing games, was held to 14 yards on just eight carries.
Some of the run game struggles were due to Boise State's experienced defensive front and Washington's youth on the offensive line. But Petersen expected better production to help his young quarterback.
''It certainly was very concerning, probably the number one thing on offense,'' Petersen said. ''And it was a little thing here and a little thing there that made it look bad. ... We're going to have to get our run game better for us to progress.''
Browning was cautious in his first start not to make many risky throws, leading to a number of underneath routes and short passes. The Huskies longest completion was a 19-yard pass to Washington out of the backfield and the longest throw to a wide receiver was Dante Pettis' 17-yard reception on the Huskies final drive.
''A little of it was trying to get something going, trying to get a little rhythm, trying get a first down and stay on the field,'' Petersen said. ''The first half was very, very poor. We had the ball 20 some plays so it was very hard to get anything going, but another thing that we don't like and we've got to be able to take some chances.''
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org