The signal caller for the Washington Huskies is chaos and calm all at once, an elite level passer that can get caught up in some terrible stretches of play.
For all the good, Jake Browning has provided plenty of bad his four-year collegiate campaign, tossing 32 interceptions with his 90 touchdowns. Whether it is game to game, or quarter to quarter, Browning tends to fade from the good and into the ugly any given Saturday.
Two years ago, Browning completed 71 percent of his passes for 210 yards and three scores against the Stanford Cardinal. In the following four games after his big win over the Cardinal, he threw for six touchdowns in two games. In 2016, he finished the season completed over 70 percent of his passes in six games and tossed for over 40 scores and 3,000 yards. This was the best case version of Browning; very few backslides into poor football combined with a loaded roster.
This season, Browning has averaged 64 percent, showing up in the second half against Auburn and besting the South division-leading Utah squad on the road. He has lost some significant contributors at receiver (John Ross, Dante Pettis) over the years but continued to find victories and lead a team that has suffered massive turnover, especially on defense.
The best version of Browning complements a solid defense by running up the score on the opponent and forcing them into passing situations down two possessions. His success, in turn, opens up the ground and pound for Myles Gaskin, the returning 1,000-yard running back who can victimize a weak box, showing up in the numbers as Gaskin topped 100 rushing yards in all but one game leading up to the 2016 USC debacle.
Gaskin continued the trend, rushing for over six yards per carry in three of the five games Browning topped a 70 percent completion rate.
Things hum when Browning is in rhythm and the ground game is a compliment not a bailout for poor play.
Getting to Browning effects everything they do, and it can happen in a flash. Even in his best season in 2016, the USC Trojans got under browning skin, forcing two picks and throwing their offense out of whack. Gaskin ran for 51 yards against USC. Fast forward to 2018, and it is easy to see the correlation between the success of the running attack and the passing game. Against Auburn, a team that kept the Huskies from finding a rhythm or a win, he rushed for only 75. This season has been one of Browning’s worst years, as a result, Gaskin has toped 100 yards only once.
Browning has thrown eight picks to 12 touchdowns, with unconvincing games against California and UCLA, even throwing two picks against NDSU (an FCS school).
His passing efficiency rate of 146.7 is his worst mark since his freshman run, and the formula to Browning has been discovered: pressure destroys this team. Outside of his 43 touchdown season in 2016 (when Washington was at peak powers), Browning has thrown for 47 scores and 23 interceptions in three seasons. Pretty pedestrian for a player that seemingly broke out in 2016.
The Stanford pass rush has not been anything to call home about, but the formula to beat Browning and bring out the ugly quarterback lies in getting into the backfield.
Stanford’s best route for success is selling out on the blitz, trusting their corners in man-to-man, and getting Browning jumpy in the pocket. If Stanford can clog the passing attack by putting Browning on the ground, the running game has proven, more often than not, an insufficient place to find victories for the Huskies.
Browning, throughout his career, has been turbulent with his production. Stanford’s defense can set the tone early, getting to Browning and keeping him off rhythm. It is enough to bring out the scary side of this Washington passing attack and the surest path for a Stanford victory.