Huskies enter final month with renewed hope for bowl berth
SEATTLE (AP) Thanks to its most dominant conference win in two seasons, a bowl game is again very much a possibility for Washington.
The Huskies' 49-3 romp over Arizona last Saturday changed the perspective for the final four weeks of the season. Instead of needing to pull off at least one unexpected victory, a split by the Huskies (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) in their final four games will get them to 6-6 and likely a bowl game for the sixth straight year.
Understanding the difference between being 4-4 and 3-5 going into the final month was behind coach Chris Petersen's message of urgency last week. The Huskies' final stretch begins this week hosting No. 13 Utah.
''I think this team really understood there was a huge difference between those two at this time, especially with who we have coming here,'' Petersen said Monday. ''I didn't have to say a whole lot. They said a whole lot. They got it and they responded.''
A performance like the one against Arizona also served to reinforce that what Petersen and his coaching staff have been preaching can work.
''Not all of the results have shown up right now and that is the trick,'' Petersen said. ''Things that are worthwhile in life are usually going to be very, very difficult. Most people can't and won't persist through those things. They get frustrated, they back off with the energy, attitude, effort-type things. That's human nature. I've been saying we're going to get good if we can persist. If we can continue to stick to this process which is really, really difficult to do when all the results aren't coming right away.''
Quarterback Jake Browning had his most efficient game of the season against Arizona, throwing for 264 yards and four touchdowns, while running for a fifth score. He became the third Washington quarterback in the last 20 seasons with at least five total touchdowns in a game, joining Keith Price and Jake Locker. Price had seven total TDs in the 2011 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor, while Locker had five total TDs twice.
After sitting out against Stanford because of a shoulder injury, Browning returned with a performance befitting an upperclassman, not a freshman making just his seventh college start.
''This guy is as tough as they come,'' Petersen said. ''Don't let the school-boy looks fool you; this guy is competitive and as tough as they come.''
Browning is also evolving as he gets more playing time. His 12-yard touchdown run against the Wildcats resulted from him noticing a particular alignment at the line of scrimmage. Rather than run the play that was called, Browning took the snap and raced to the left, where there were no Arizona defenders.
''He's not the limiting factor in terms of what we do. At all. It really isn't,'' Petersen said. ''All those guys have to work as a crew, all 11 of them. And he's not going to slow the crew down.''
Notes: Petersen said DL Elijah Qualls (ankle) is ''week-to-week'' after getting hurt early against Arizona. Petersen said they are awaiting a final diagnosis of the injury. ... LB Travis Feeney was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after having 11 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks against Arizona.