“They care,” the Huskies coach says. “They are trying to get it right. ... but it is going to take a little bit of time.”
Two days later, Chris Petersen wasn’t interested in picking apart all the shortcomings of Washington’s offensive performance in Saturday’s 30-24 loss to California. The UW coach is more interested in picking up his young team with positive reinforcement.
That the Huskies’ freshman quarterback, Jake Browning, typically takes a similar tack is one important reason why Petersen is confident about the direction UW’s offense is headed.
“The guy’s done some really good things, as we all know, and he’s going to continue to get better,” Petersen said Monday. “I have so much respect for that guy — how hard he works, the feel that he has for the game.
“That’s what I love about Jake: He’s the first one to go, What can I do better?’ … He’s not going to point fingers.”
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In his first Pac-12 game, Browning was 17 for 28 for 152 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and one lost fumble. He was sacked five times behind a raw offensive line featuring three freshmen starters.
Frustrated, disappointed and painful were words Petersen used to describe a UW offensive performance that included 259 total yards and a mere 55 snaps in just over 20 minutes of possession. He expected — and expects — better, but Petersen had also braced himself for the inconsistency typical of a young team.
“It’s all fun and games to talk about these young guys … and (think), ‘Look how this is going to be in the future,’ (but) the future’s now,” Petersen said. “That’s the painful thing about this, is we’ve got to get this (fixed) right now. But, being realistic, when you play that many young guys, you’re going to have some tough growing pains with this.
“And that’s what makes it hard, I think. They care. They are trying to get it right. You can see the look on their faces. You can see how hard they are working during the week, but it is going to take a little bit of time.”
The next step for Browning: trusting his protection, even if the protection remains an unsteady work in progress. Through four games, UW has allowed 10 sacks; among Pac-12 teams, only Oregon (11) and Arizona State (14) have allowed more.
During UW’s three nonconference games, Browning surprised many with an ability to scramble away from pressure and make plays on the move. He wasn’t able to do that nearly as well against a Pac-12 defense Saturday.
“It’s a hard dilemma for any quarterback,” Petersen said. “If he’s not feeling great about the protection and he’s been pressured a couple of times … that’s a very fine line, like, ‘Do I hang or do I get out of here?’ We’ve got to get better at that whole thing. We’ve got to protect him better and he’s got to learn to trust it a little bit and get the ball out on time.”
This week, the Huskies (2-2) have their only bye of the season, but there’s no time after that to catch their breaths, not with an arduous October run that starts with a Thursday-night prime-time game at USC on Oct. 8. The Huskies then have Oregon (Oct. 17 in Seattle) and Stanford (Oct. 24 on the road) before hosting Arizona on Halloween.
“We’re just going to keep pushing and just try to stay as positive as we can with it,” Petersen said. “We really like the kids. I mean, you know when guys are ‘in’ and really trying to do this the right way, and it is. I know we’ll improve. I do know that. I think our schedule continually gets harder as we go, and so we have to improve to give us a fighting chance.”