Had he stayed, Jake Haener might be the University of Washington starting quarterback right now. Yet he was far too impatient to let it play out.
Rather than back up Jacob Eason for the 2019 season, Haener transferred within 24 hours of losing the Husky job and ended up at Fresno State, where he's now regarded as somewhat of a Bulldogs legend for leading his team to a thrilling 40-37 victory over 13th-ranked UCLA late Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Injured to the point he winced on every throw at the end, Haener calmly took charge with 55 seconds remaining and guided his team 75 yards for a game-winning, 13-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Cropper with just 14 ticks on the clock left to shock the Bruins (2-1).
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior from Danville, California, dropped to his knees after the deciding score and pointed to the sky, stood up, went down again and raised his arms over his head as if he were in a religious revival meeting.
Haener was sensational all night long for the Bulldogs (3-1), completing 39 of 53 passes for 455 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cropper was his leading target, catching 14 of his throws for 141 yards.
With 2:55 left to play, the quarterback took a shot to either his ribs or his hip as he threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Erik Brooks for a 33-30 Fresno lead. He rolled in agony on the ground.
He was all blood and guts thereafter, helped off the field initially by coaches and trainers and alternately limping and bending over. Once time ran out, an emotionally spent Haener took a step and dropped face down into the turf before his teammates lifted him up.
All night long, this game resembled a Husky reunion, one after another.
Haener completed 5 passes for 61 yards to Ty Jones, who transferred from the UW in the offseason and was one of the first to greet and hug the heroic QB following that final touchdown pass.
After the game was over, Haener and UCLA quarterback Ethan Garbers, another former UW player, met on the field and something was said that made both of them smile.
We're the ex-Husky quarterbacks club, maybe?
From there, the Bruins' Colson Yankoff, another former Husky quarterback and now a receiver, came up and spoke to his one-time teammate.
During the action, Haener even absorbed a hit from UCLA linebacker Ale Kaho, a long-ago Husky signee who asked out of his scholarship commitment to play at Alabama before winding up with the Bruins. They would have been teammates in Seattle if it had worked out.
On Saturday night, Haener was like one of those old-time, beat-up NFL quarterbacks getting it done. Think Y.A. Tittle with blood running down his forehead.
Yogi Roth of Pac-12 Networks told on the air how he tried to talk the quarterback out of leaving the UW, reminding him that the job would be his in time. Back then, Haener just wasn't ready. Replacing Jake Browning, he got a shot at California in 2018 and threw a game-deciding interception. He got a fair shot in fall camp and couldn't beat out Eason.
Young players tend to grow up if the fans let them. Maybe Haener got better quarterback coaching in Fresno, too.
Had he not been impatient or got his feelings hurt by not winning the job in Seattle, Haener would probably be in his second year or even third as the UW starter. Maybe he would have started in 2019 eventually when Eason began to get a little carefree with the football and throw pick-sixes.
It was a big decision for Haener to leave the Chris Petersen-coached Husky program and the Pac-12. His mother Julie, later a TV anchor in the Bay Area, was a UW grad. The school was in the family.
Fresno State, however, suits him.
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