Jake Browning, Chico McClatcher and Myles Gaskin provided a tantalizing glimpse of Washington’s future against Sacramento State. Even against a Big Sky team, For a young team, there is much to be said about making progress under any conditions.
It would have been easy on Saturday to daydream about all the glory that lies ahead for the Big Three of true freshmen who powered Washington’s 49-0 romp over Sacramento State.
Except one of those youngsters showed some veteran wisdom in urging a brain rewind back to the present – which looked pretty good in its own right on a sunny Saturday of offensive explosion.
“You don’t want to look in the future too much because we still have, what, 10 games left,” said quarterback Jake Browning. “You start looking in the future too much, there goes your true-freshman season.”
Freshmen by the numbers
146 Rushing yards for Myles Gaskin. He scored three touchdowns, including one on a 78-yard run.
49 Yards on Chico McClatcher’s only reception of the game, which went for a touchdown.
326 Passing yards for Jake Browning, on 17-of-24 passing. He threw two touchdown passes
For the Huskies, it was not the kind of game to make sweeping generalizations about breakthroughs or to crown new stars. Sacramento State played with heart, but the Hornets are not of the caliber that will soon confront Washington.
Yet for a team that has no choice but to thrust freshmen – true and otherwise – into significant roles, there is much to be said about making progress under any conditions.
They may be baby steps, and for every two forward there may be one back. But steps are steps, and when you have as many callow Huskies high-stepping into the end zone as occurred against Sacramento State, it beats the alternative.
“Confidence is everything in this game, it really is, so we gained a little confidence today, I know that,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “And we’ll need it, because the next game (against Utah State) will be significantly different in terms of matchups and those type of things.”
After an uneven debut showing against Boise State in which he was shackled by a conservative game plan, Browning was allowed to show off more of his skillset.
He hurled his first two collegiate touchdown passes (though the first one could easily have been an interception), ran a textbook two-minute drill at the end of the first half, executed a zone-read keeper beautifully on fourth down (except for the phantom tackle that dropped him en route to the end zone), and looked, for the most part, completely in charge of the offense.
Two other members of Browning’s recruiting class made a huge impact. After Washington’s first two possessions stalled, the Huskies turned over the running game to Myles Gaskin, who touched the ball on eight of nine plays on their first scoring drive. Gaskin capped it with a 3-yard touchdown run and scored later on a 78-yard burst, finishing with 146 yards on 14 carries – most by a Husky true freshman since Willie Hurst had 155 in 1998.
Wide receiver Chico McClatcher, another locally bred true freshman (he’s from Federal Way, Gaskin from O’Dea High School by way of Lynnwood), hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from Browning. McClatcher also had a 28-yard run on an end-around.
The Huskies have played an amazing 10 true freshmen already this season, but those three are likely to make the most visible impact. It would be naïve to think it’s going to be all romps and roses, however.
“At times, you get frustrated with them, and it’s not perfect,” said Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said of his youthful players. “But these guys are 18, 19 years old. It’s something we’re dealing with, and these guys are doing a good job with it. It’s going to be hard, and they’re going to be forced into situations a little bit earlier at times. But it is what it is.”
Petersen noted that Browning is still working on trusting his protection and staying in the pocket, rather than embarking on some of his wild scrambles. Those have been successful, partially because Browning’s “unique speed,” in Petersen’s diplomatic words, causes defenders to overrun him.
“That’s not really his deal, spinning out of there and making guys miss,” Petersen said. “But he’s been doing it. If we can keep him in his game – and we think his game is going to be a pocket passer, hang in there, take some shots and throw the ball down the field – we’ll have something going.”
Browning’s first touchdown came on a pass that was nearly intercepted before deflecting to Marvin Hall, who wound up with a 78-yard score. Smith said with a smile that Browning’s first TD was one he’ll never forget – though the quarterback sounded like he would probably like to.
“That was a bad read by me,” Browning said. “I thought it was going to be picked. I said a little thank you to whoever helped me out on that one.”
Gaskin and McClatcher – neither of whom were made available to the media – are cut from the same mold. They are smallish (5-foot-9, 192 pounds for Gaskin, 5-7, 176 for McClatcher) with explosive speed and notable elusiveness.
Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, a former high-school running back, said Gaskin asked him for some running tips when he first arrived on campus. That’s an amusing notion, considering the 311-pound Qualls has more than 100 pounds on him.
“I helped him out,” Qualls said. “I told people, ‘If Myles does not come here and start, he will play.’ He’s good, man, really good. So is Chico and the rest of those freshmen. Man, we have some people that can ball out. I’m excited for them to really get into the schemes and really get their playing time.”
That’s a thought for another day. On Saturday, the Huskies were enjoying the present, when their true freshmen had a true blast.