#Pac12AfterDark was in full effect Saturday at Husky Stadium. Sure, by the second half the Huskies knew they weren't playing for the Pac-12 anymore, but it hardly killed their spirit.
Pac-12 title be damned.
Nobody in Husky Stadium was thinking about that as time expired Saturday. Nobody wearing purple and gold was lamenting the fact that their chance to defend their conference crown had evaporated.
Maybe that would have seeped into their heads after a more pedestrian victory. But man — that was just too good.
Three hours before Washington kicker Tristan Vizcaino nailed a buzzer-beating 38-yard field goal to give his team a 33-30 win over Utah, Stanford had beaten visiting Cal.
The Cardinal’s 17-14 win over the Golden Bears eliminated the Huskies from Pac-12 title contention, which could have dampened UW’s night.
Moreover, Utah’s second-half mastery of the Huskies’ defense made it seem as though Washington would drop its second straight game and fall to 8-3. Then the magic happened. Game. Of. The. Year.
“Just proud of the guys,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “In a lot of ways it was a frustrating game for us … but the nice thing is that these kids just battled hard and battled back.”
If there has been one black mark on the Huskies’ résumé over the past couple seasons, it’s been their ability to rally from behind. Whether it was USC and Alabama last year, or Arizona State and Stanford this year, that storybook comeback had eluded the program.
But every time Utah gave itself a seven-point lead in the second half, the Huskies erased it with impeccable poise. And there’s no question who the leading man behind the charge was — quarterback Jake Browning.
Browning’s season thus far has not been up to his standards or the media’s preseason expectations. A Heisman candidate for much of last year, the junior has been inconsistent and, at certain times, invisible.
But what he did Saturday will go down as one of the finer QB performances this school has seen. The 354 yards on 26-of-35 passing was impressive, but tells only a fraction of the story.
With the Huskies down 23-16 late in the third quarter, Browning hit running back Myles Gaskin for a 76-yard touchdown to tie the score. When the Huskies were down 30-23 with 1:33 left in the game, Browning completed a 14-yard pass to Andre Baccellia on fourth-and-10 — moving the ball to Utah’s 47-yard line in the process.
Four straight completions ensued — including a 28-yard toss to Will Dissly — and then Gaskin scored on a 2-yard run with 58 seconds left. Score tied.
The Huskies weren’t done.
After forcing a three-and-out, Washington got the ball back on their 28 with 24 seconds left.
Then … boom — Browning completed an 18-yard pass to Dante Pettis. Then … bam — he completed a 31-yard pass to Baccellia.
An incomplete pass followed, and with four seconds left, Vizcaino took the field.
Washington’s kicking woes have been well-documented this season. Vizcaino entered the game 8 of 14 on field goals, and missed an extra point and a field goal Saturday night.
If there was one player fans and teammates alike would have wanted to play the hero, it was him. And he came through as if there was never a doubt.
This has been an odd and somewhat disappointing season for the Huskies. From ESPN feuding with Petersen, to an NFL prospect getting arrested, to an almost unfathomable road loss to Arizona State, myriad events have been less than ideal.
Skyscraping expectations have gone unmet, and you can bet that stings the coaches and players.
But what took place Saturday momentarily erased any heartache. The fact that Browning broke a school record for career passing touchdowns (he’s at 77 now) and Gaskin broke one for career rushing touchdowns (he’s at 39) were borderline afterthoughts.
There have been some forgettable moments for the Huskies this season. But that win? That win they’ll remember forever.
|Husky adventures in the kicking game vs. Utah:|
|Event||UW point change|
|UW missed extra point||-1|
|Utah successful onside kick, leads to FG||-3|
|UW field goal (34 yards)||+3|
|UW missed 30-yard FG||-3|
|Utah punter runs for 1st down on 4th-and-17, leads to TD||-7|
|Winning field goal (38 yards)||+3|