The UW coach says Browning, benched against California, will "absolutely" start against Stanford on Saturday.

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Chris Petersen was emphatic on Monday: Washington senior Jake Browning will “absolutely” start at quarterback against Stanford on Saturday.

“Jake Browning is and always has been our quarterback here,” Petersen said, adding: “There’s no one I care for more, have more respect for as a football player and as a person, than him. And I’ve been coaching a long time.”

Browning was benched late in the third quarter of Cal’s 12-10 upset of the then-No. 15 Huskies on Saturday in Berkeley.

With the Huskies leading 7-6, Petersen turned to redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Haener, whose only other appearance for UW was in mop-up duty against North Dakota in September. Haener’s second pass attempt Saturday was intercepted by Cal’s Evan Weaver and returned 37 yards for the Bears’ only touchdown of the game.

“We put (Haener) in a tough spot,” offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said after the game.

The QB change, Petersen said, was more his attempt to spark the offense, less about the quarterback play.

“To me, this is about our offense, and not nearly as much about Jake (Browning). Just trying to help something,” Petersen said.

Why the drastic move to remove the QB then?

“Because everybody else had already been taken out before. We rotated receivers, backs, line — and it’s just about doing something,” Petersen said. “You have seven points, and so that’s hard for some people to swallow. But like I said, we’ve been kind of plodding along on offense here for the last few weeks — not necessarily because of Jake’s fault, but you’ve got to try and do something. You’ve got to try some stuff in practice and you try some things in games. Defense is playing really well and you still think you’re going to be able to score more than 10 points no matter who you put in there. That was the thought behind it.”

The Huskies declined to make either QB available for interviews after Saturday’s game.

“Jake Browning, he’s the toughest guy in the room. He can take it. He’ll be fine,” Petersen said Monday. “Does he like it? Is he irritated as all get-out? Yeah. But he won’t go in the tank. He won’t back down.”

Washington’s all-time leading passer, Browning finished 11 for 21 for 148 yards with one touchdown and one first-half interception against Cal. He was sacked twice.

Overall this season, the senior has 12 touchdown passes, eight interceptions and three rushing touchdowns. He ranks first in the Pac-12 with 8.6 yards per pass and fifth in QB rating at 146.7.

In the loss to Cal, the Huskies were without senior running back Myles Gaskin for the second week in a row, one of a handul of notable injuries on the offense this season. Petersen said Monday that Gaskin (shoulder) and sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant (knee) are both close to returning. Left tackle Trey Adams, he said, might still be “a ways away” from a return from a back injury.

Petersen was asked if the relationship between Browning and Hamdan, the first-year coordinator, has taken longer to develop than expected.

“I’m not putting this on any one person because it’s not. Everybody wants to talk about the quarterback; everybody wants to talk about the coordinator; everybody wants to talk about head coach,” Petersen said. “It’s always a little bit of everything until you get all those pieces kind of going together.

“We’ve got a handful of guys that looks pretty good on paper when you start this season, with Myles in the lineup and Chico (McClatcher) in the lineup and Quinten Pounds in the lineup and Trey Adams in the lineup and Hunter Bryant in the lineup. It’s a little bit of a lot of things.”

Monday is usually the off-day for Husky players. Petersen said he walked by a team meeting room Monday morning and there Browning was breaking down film.

“I know he’ll do everything in his power to help us all get better,” Petersen said. “That’s all we can ask.”