No. 10 Washington holds off rally, beats Arizona State 27-20
Jake Browning spent the first three weeks earning his share of criticism for the kind of miscues not expected of a fourth-year starting quarterback.
Saturday night was a return to Browning looking more like the quarterback Washington has come to expect with plenty of touchdown passes and very few mistakes.
Browning threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, added a third TD toss early in the fourth quarter, and No. 10 Washington outlasted Arizona State 27-20.
Browning began the week with the same number of touchdown passes as interceptions. He finished Saturday committing zero turnovers and without any of the shaky moments from the first three games.
“The night before I could tell he was mentally locked in. I’m glad to see him play the way we all know he can play,” Washington wide receiver Ty Jones said.
Browning hit Aaron Fuller and Jones on TD passes during a brilliant first quarter, and found Cade Otton in the back corner of the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard TD to give Washington (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) a 27-13 lead.
“I thought he threw the ball well. He found guys even when guys weren’t open,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
Herm Edwards suffered his second straight loss in charge of the Sun Devils’ after a promising 2-0 start that included an upset of Michigan State. The problem against Washington was simply a lack of punch from Edwards’ offense.
“Losing is not a lot of fun. It’s no fun for anyone. There’s a pit in your stomach when you lose a football game,” Edwards said. “It’s two in a row now so we got to figure out how to win another game because this is not a lot of fun when you lose.”
Arizona State (2-2, 0-1) rediscovered its run game that was absent the previous two weeks, with Eno Benjamin rushing for 104 yards. It was a run-heavy game plan that caught Washington by surprise, but was not able to be complemented by the Sun Devils’ passing game.
Quarterback Manny Wilkins threw for only 104 yards and star wide receiver N’Keal Harry was limited to five catches for 20 yards, unable to find space against Washington’s stellar secondary.
“We knew we could run the ball well on these guys,” Wilkins said. “I think we ran the ball pretty well and we just knew they weren’t going to let us really throw it over their heads.”
Wilkins scored on a 1-yard TD run with 2:54 left to pull the Sun Devils within 27-20. Arizona State kicked deep with three timeouts remaining, but Washington converted a key third-and-6 when Browning hit Andre Baccellia for 9 yards with 2:34 left on a call that was overturned on replay.
Browning finished 15 of 22 passing for 202 yards, but was at his best in the first quarter when he hit 6 of 7 passes for 110 yards and his first two touchdowns. Fuller, the Huskies leading receiver, caught his first TD of the season on an 11-yard reception. Jones’ TD was his fourth, an impressive 19-yard catch as he was falling backward in the end zone.
“I was able to set my feet and get into a rhythm, and we had some guys make some big-time plays too,” Browning said.
The quick start by Browning came after an inauspicious start for the Huskies. The team first got briefly stuck in the tunnel leading to the field before kickoff when a gate wouldn’t open, then saw wide receiver Andre Baccellia throw an interception on the first play of the game on a double pass. Arizona State’s Chase Lewis grabbed the interception and six plays later Benjamin scored from the 1 for a 7-0 Arizona State lead.
“I wish I didn’t call it,” Petersen said of the double pass. “That was on me. … They were on it better than we were.”
Browning became the second quarterback in Washington history to top 10,000 career passing yards when he hit Otton on a 24-yard completion in the third quarter. He trails only Cody Pickett in career yards passing at the school. Browning topped 10,000 career yards of total offense earlier in the game and his three TD passes gave him 85 for his career, moving him into a tie for eighth in Pac-12 history.
Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven finished with 20 total tackles, a pair of forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. It’s the most tackles by a Washington player since John Fiala had 22 tackles against Arizona State in 1996.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils were committed to the run game and keeping the ball away from the Huskies as much as possible. Arizona State’s 164 yards rushing was double the previous two games combined. The Sun Devils were held to 44 yards against Michigan State and only 36 yards against San Diego State.
Washington: The Huskies pass protection could not have been much better allowing Browning time to find his receivers down field, especially in the first quarter. Browning was sacked only once against a defense that had 12 sacks coming into the game.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils return home to host Oregon State next Saturday.
Washington: The Huskies close out the nonconference portion of their schedule hosting BYU next Saturday.