Browning makes home debut as Washington hosts Sac State
SEATTLE (AP) Jody Sears knows quite well how prolific Washington's Jake Browning can be as a quarterback.
It's really all the Sacramento State coach heard about the past few years while Browning was rewriting record books at nearby Folsom High, just a few miles from the Hornets' campus.
''They have probably one of the finest young quarterbacks in the country, there is no question about it,'' Sears said.
Sacramento State (1-0) will get an up close look at the collegiate version of Browning on Saturday when the FCS Hornets travel to Washington (0-1) for the Huskies' home opener.
Browning made his debut last Friday when the Huskies nearly upset No. 20 Boise State, unable to rally from a 16-0 halftime deficit and falling 16-13 when Cameron Van Winkle's 46-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds that would have forced overtime stayed to the right and refused to curve.
Browning certainly looked the part of a future star even if his numbers lacked pop. Throwing mostly conservative routes, Browning was 20 of 34 for 150 yards and an interception. Washington coach Chris Petersen said the Huskies must be more aggressive going downfield in the passing game, starting with facing the Hornets.
''We've got to be able to help him out. We've got to set him up for some success with easy throws and run the ball, and then take some chances down field,'' Petersen said. ''That's got to get better.''
The biggest boost for Browning would be a run game that never got started against Boise State The Huskies finished with 29 net yards rushing, just the 11th time in the last 20 seasons they were held under 30 net yards on the ground.
The Hornets will be trying to replicate what they pulled off in 2011 and 2012 when they beat Oregon State and Colorado. Sacramento State has won its last four games dating back to last season; the last time they won five straight games was 1991-92.
Here's what else to watch for as the Huskies and Hornets meet for the first time:
WASHINGTON ON THE RUN: Getting Dwayne Washington started will be a huge priority for the Huskies prior to the start of conference play. In part because of the Huskies' inability to sustain drives against Boise State, the junior running back had just eight carries for 14 yards against the Broncos in the opener. Washington's backup, Myles Gaskin, didn't fare much better with five carries for 5 yards.
''It starts with the run game. And when you can't run the ball, you're putting a lot of pressure on your pass game,'' Petersen said. ''It always starts right there and if you can't do that, then we're not helping (Browning) like we need to.''
CONTAIN HENNIE: At just 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, Isaiah Hennie is one of the smallest players on the Hornets roster. He's also one of the most impactful. Hennie had a 21-yard touchdown reception and 67-yard punt return for a score in last week's opening win over Eastern Oregon. Combined with his 89-yard kickoff return touchdown last season, Hennie is the first player in Sacramento State history to have a punt return and kick return for touchdowns in his career.
IN THE MIDDLE: Azeem Victor had one of the more standout debuts for the Huskies in their opener with 14 tackles. Washington's inside linebacker spots were questions coming into the season after Shaq Thompson left early for the NFL and John Timu graduated. Victor's performance took a step in easing those concerns.
STAY HEALTHY: The ultimate goal for Sacramento State - aside from giving Washington a challenge and collecting a healthy paycheck - is to get out of Seattle healthy. The Hornets begin Big Sky Conference play in two weeks, a conference that is loaded with six teams ranked this week.
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org