Gaskin, Browning set for Washington finale in Rose Bowl
Especially when one of Gaskin’s first — and favorite — memories is of getting yelled at by his quarterback.
“First time we played, against Boise (State), my second play in there I didn’t know the play at all and he hiked the ball and he just handed it to me and I got blown up. And I didn’t go back in for the rest of the time. And he yelled at me, too,” Gaskin recalled with a laugh. “And I was like ‘what just happened?’ Other than that it’s always been good. No complaints after that.”
Despite the inauspicious start, this has turned into one of the more remarkable partnerships in college football. A four-year starting quarterback handing off to a four-year starting running back, both rewriting the record books at Washington and implanting themselves in the Pac-12 record book.
Now the careers that started on the blue turf at Boise State will end on the green sod at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day when Washington faces Ohio State.
“It went by fast, but I think it’s been the right amount of time,” Gaskin said. “I’m super thankful for everything, from camp to fans to the ups and downs, winning games, losing games. I really loved every second of it, no complaints.”
Gaskin and Browning will always be connected. Of the recruits Chris Petersen has landed in his Washington tenure, Gaskin and Browning rank near the top.
Four-year starters at any position are scarce in college, let alone quarterback and running back. The Rose Bowl will be the 53rd career game for Browning and 52nd for Gaskin. Browning missed one game his freshman year; Gaskin didn’t miss a game until a shoulder injury sent him to the sideline for a pair of games this season. Browning’s been the quarterback for 39 wins; Gaskin on the field for 38.
Even though the Huskies may have underachieved this season compared to their preseason expectations, they know the importance of the Rose Bowl to the history of the program.
“You get ready to play Ohio State and I think go out and win a Rose Bowl a lot of people will forget that we lost three games,” Browning said.
Browning will leave Washington as the winningest quarterback in Pac-12 history, yet he has been the target of criticism. Fans didn’t like some of his decision-making. Or the fact he didn’t have the biggest arm or a build suited for the NFL. Or for Washington’s losses in the past two bowl games to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals two years ago and Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl last year.
It hasn’t been easy for Browning to avoid. Or his teammates, who at times have wanted to defend their quarterback.
“He’s the most calm, cool, collected dude you will meet and he backs it up,” left tackle Trey Adams said. “Everyone knows you’re going to play bad sometimes and you’re going to have people who are going to love you or hate you but I’ll always love Jake. … I kind of feel like a bodyguard sometimes and I think he knows that. Like I said great teammate, great guy, great leader.”
Gaskin was just as effusive in his praise of the quarterback.
“There are some times where you don’t want to hear Jake talking, like, man, here he goes again. At the same time, that’s what you need in a leader and what I think makes him special to this team and that’s why I’m really thankful for him,” Gaskin said. “He’s just one of those dudes who wants to compete and brings it out in everybody. That’s my guy. That’s always going to be my guy.”
While Browning has faced criticism at times, there’s been mostly universal praise for Gaskin during his career. He’s the first Pac-12 running back to have four 1,000-yard seasons, an accomplishment that might outweigh all the other lofty stats during his career. He considered leaving for the NFL after his junior season but expressed no regrets about his decision to return.
“People ask me that. People suggested it to me, but I’m not one of those people,” Gaskin said. “Once you’re in something you have to ride it out. That’s the way look at it. Ain’t no use in looking back. That’s a waste of time. Life is too short for that.”