Washington quarterback Jake Browning exited the game early in the fourth quarter, allowing redshirt freshman backup Jake Haener to make his debut.
And what a debut it was.
During his first series, Haener completed all five of his passes for 74 yards, including a 43-yard pass to Ty Jones. Jones then made a one-handed catch in the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Haener.
Haener completed all seven of his passes against North Dakota, finishing with 110 yards and a touchdown. When it comes to backup quarterbacks, Huskies head coach Petersen said there is a tough line to walk between letting them perform and playing conservative in a blowout win.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“We put him in there, there was enough time left, the score was manageable,” Petersen said. “We want him to be able to throw the ball. Some of the deep balls are dictated by the coverage.”
Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said it was good to see Haener enter the game and “cut loose.”
“I think he has that gun slinger approach,” Hamdan said. “Just continuing with the decision making, choosing the right spots to do that. But again, a really solid outing from him.”
Haener performed as expected, Browning said.
“Came in, made some big time throws, went through his reads,” Browning said. “Gave guys a chance on the ball. Definitely played well in practice. He’s earned that second-string spot.”
Byron Murphy comes up big
While Petersen was critical of his offense after Saturday’s 45-3 win over North Dakota, he was complimentary of a defense that held the Fighting Hawks to 262 yards and just 10 first downs.
In a game full of strong defensive performances, Byron Murphy stood out. When North Dakota’s John Santiago broke free for a 69-yard run in the third quarter, it was Murphy who chased him down and prevented a touchdown.
In the same series, Murphy broke up a pass intended for Noah Wanzek in the end zone to prevent a touchdown and hold the Fighting Hawks to a field goal. He broke up a third-down passes twice on Saturday, and he said that’s something the defensive backs focus on.
Before every game, Murphy said, the coaches emphasize getting off the field on third down. He made sure that happened against North Dakota.
“They threw the ball in the end zone and I knew at that point I had to make a play or he was going to make a play,” Murphy said.
“That’s the biggest thing for us. Third down for us, we have to get off the field as a defense. We have to. I know in the past we didn’t get off the field on third downs and that’s our biggest thing before games, just talking about getting off the field on third downs.”
Elsewhere in the secondary, Taylor Rapp finished with 2.0 sacks.
“They’re hard to block,” Petersen said of his secondary. “You better get to them quickly because you’re sacrificing coverage when you’re bringing those guys. Those guys are pretty speedy guys that come very fast at you.
Cade Otton touchdown
Tumwater’s Cade Otton recorded the first reception of his college career against North Dakota. It also happened to be his first touchdown reception.
With 3:35 left in the second quarter, Browning hit Otton, a redshirt freshman tight end, with a 1-yard pass in the end zone. It was Otton’s only reception of the game
Disrupted offensive line
Not only was UW without preseason All-American left tackle Trey Adams, but they were also missing starting center Nick Harris due to injury. Senior Jesse Sosebee earned his first start at center in his place.
The Seattle Times reported Adams had back surgery on Wednesday. Asked about it on Thursday, Petersen said he had nothing to say. After the game, Petersen said Harris and other injured players are week-to-week.
Petersen said it’s hard to tell too much about Sosebee’s performance, but he didn’t see too many mistakes.
“We are under center, in the shotgun and he managed that, which is part one,” Petersen said. “We’ll just put the tape on and see what it looked like inside.”