With the same quick twitch he used to elude three defenders on his signature play in the Huskies’ victory Saturday, Jake Browning immediately laughed off any comparison of him to Russell Wilson.
“First of all, I’m not that athletic,” Browning said. “So let’s not go there.”
Surely, Washington’s freshman quarterback has never been confused for a dual-threat quarterback like the Seahawks star. You have to admit, though, that the play had some Wilsonesque qualities: Browning spinning out of the pocket away from three Utah State defenders, rolling to his right and floating a pass over a leaping defender to tight end Drew Sample for a three-yard touchdown.
“I knew it was second down, so I could’ve thrown it away,” Browning said. “But I saw him open, split-second decision, threw it and he made a great play.”
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That was the last of Browning’s three TD passes in the Huskies’ 31-17 victory to close out the nonconference schedule. Three games into his UW career, Browning has completed 59 of 89 passes (66.3 percent) for 844 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His quarterback rating of 160.0 ranks fourth in the Pac-12 -- this after posting a rating of 87.4 in UW’s season-opening loss at Boise State.
Now comes Browning’s first test against a Pac-12 team when the California Bears visit Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium for Saturday’s 2 p.m. kickoff. The game will pit a UW defense ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 total defense (267.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.0 points per game) against a Cal offense that is second in the conference in scoring (51.0 ppg) and passing (563.3 ypg).
The Bears were an early 2-point favorite over the Huskies (2-1) on Sunday. The Huskies have won six in a row in the series, including a 31-7 victory in Berkeley last year.
Cal junior Jared Goff has been one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks, with a QB rating of 181.9 that ranks eighth nationally. Like Browning now, Goff played as a true freshman in 2013, posting a QB rating of 135.6 in his first three collegiate games (against Northwestern, Portland State and Ohio State) and an overall rating of 123.0 that season.
The Bears went 1-11 in 2013, but both the quarterback and the program appear to be benefiting from those experiences now: Cal is 3-0 for the first time in four years, and some analysts have projected Goff as a future first-round draft pick.
Cal beat Texas in a shootout Saturday, 45-44, escaping Austin with the win after Texas’ kicker missed the point-after with 1:11 left.
“I think we played ourselves into that one-point win,” Goff told reporters after the game. “If we had played as well as should have, it should have been a 21-point win.”
Goff completed 27 of 37 passes for 268 yards and three TDs against Texas, and broke Cal’s career passing record, now at 8,266 yards. Since the late 1980s, that record had been held by Troy Taylor, who coached Browning at Folsom High School outside of Sacramento.
The same day Goff was breaking the Cal record, Browning set the UW freshman record with 368 yards passing on 22 of 31 attempts. He did so behind a reshuffled offensive line that featured three freshmen starting for the first time and against a blitzing Utah State defense.
Jared Goff's first three games
Like the Huskies with Jake Browning this season, the Golden Bears started Jared Goff as a true freshman in 2013. Here's how Goff fared in his first three starts that season, all home games, in what turned out to be a 1-11 season:
Opponent and date
Northwestern, Aug. 31
39-64, 450 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INT
Portland State, Sept. 7
33-51, 485 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Ohio State, Sept. 14
31-53, 371 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Jake Browning’s first three games
How Jake Browning has fared in his first three career starts with the Huskies:
Opponent and date
Boise State, Sept. 4
20-34, 150 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT
Sacramento St., Sept. 12
17-24, 326 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Utah State, Sept. 19
22-31, 368 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT