Last week, Browning became just the sixth player in Pac-12 history to account for 100 touchdowns. He breaks down some of the best from his record-breaking career.
The question made Jake Browning chuckle.
“Do you think you have a photographic memory?”
He wasn’t sure about that. But when asked to look back at some of the more memorable moments of his career as the Washington Huskies quarterback — to analyze, say, a third-quarter pass he threw in the second week of September three years ago — he had no trouble recalling some of the finer details.
“I don’t know about a photographic memory,” he said. “I only remember the good plays.”
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And there have been many of those. Last Saturday, in the No. 10 Huskies’ 35-7 victory over then-No. 20 BYU, Browning became the Huskies’ all-time leading passer and recorded the 100th touchdown of his Washington career.
The 100 touchdowns put Browning in rare company. Only five other players in Pac-12 history have accomplished that feat: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (136), Washington State’s Luke Falk (123), USC’s Matt Barkley (122), USC’s Matt Leinart (109) and UCLA’s Brett Hundley (106).
This week, Browning broke down some of the most notable touchdowns of his UW career:
Touchdown No. 1
The setup: Browning’s first touchdown came in his first game at Husky Stadium, against Sacramento State on Sept. 12, 2015. This was a week after a loss at Boise State, when Browning became the first true freshman QB in program history to start a season opener. The Huskies were already leading Sac State 28-0 in the third quarter (on two rushing touchdowns each from Myles Gaskin and Dwayne Washington), when the Huskies faced a third-and-10 from their own 22.
The play: Browning’s pass was tipped in the middle of the field but still hit UW receiver Marvin Hall in the chest, resulting in a 78-yard score. A Sacramento-area native, Browning had played against some of the Sac State players growing up, and one of the defensive backs in coverage on the play was an old buddy of his.
Quoting Browning: “My first one should have been a pick. … I remember the play call: We call it ‘Spray.’ I had a little man adjustment to the field and it turned into a seam (route). And as I threw it, I thought it was going to get picked. It slipped through his hands and Marvin gets it and starts running. I thought he was going to get caught, then he broke that. I remember going to the sideline and Bush Hamdan, who was the QC (quality-control coach) at the time, he said: ‘You know, sometimes when you work really hard, good things happen.’ And I had been working pretty hard because losing that Boise State game was the first game I’d lost in two years.”
Postscript: Three minutes later, Browning threw his second TD on a 49-yard pass to fellow true freshman Chico McClatcher. “Same play (‘Spray’),” Browning said. “But that was a better throw.”
Touchdown No. 6
The setup: A week after their upset of No. 17 USC, the Huskies found themselves trailing at home in the fourth quarter to rival Oregon, 26-13. Then Browning suffered a separation of his right throwing shoulder after taking a hard hit by an Oregon defender.
The play: Three plays after his shoulder injury, Browning found Jaydon Mickens for a 3-yard TD, the quarterback’s first Pac-12 touchdown.
Postscript: Browning was unable to return to the field for UW’s final offensive series — which ended in a turnover — and a week later he did not play in a loss at Stanford because of the shoulder injury.
Touchdown No. 10
The setup: In 2015, the Huskies had the youngest offense in program history (with true freshmen starters at quarterback, running back and left tackle), and predictably the offense was inconsistent throughout the season. But the offense finally broke through on Halloween night at home against Arizona. Browning had five total touchdowns in the 49-3 victory, including the first of his 23 passing touchdowns to Dante Pettis.
The play: The 31-yard pass to Pettis gave the Huskies a 28-3 lead early in the third quarter.
Quoting Browning: I definitely remember that one. That was on a dagger, on the right hash, going this way (pointing to the east end zone).”
Postscript: Later in the third quarter, Browning scored the first rushing TD of his career, on a 12-yard run to the left. “That was on a wedge,” he said. “I was supposed to run forward, but they messed up (their defensive alignment) and there was no one to the left, so I ran it that way.”
Touchdown No. 18
The setup: The Huskies came into the 2016 season opener against Rutgers with much fanfare, but it wasn’t clear just how good the offense was going to be at the time.
The play: Already leading 10-0 late in the first quarter, Browning found speedy receiver John Ross for a 38-yard TD along the right sideline. It was their first of 17 touchdown connections that season. During fall camp, the offense had had trouble moving the ball against UW’s defense, and on the sideline during the Rutgers gane Ross later remarked to Pettis: “Hey, we don’t suck!”
Quoting Browning: “Our defense was really good that year, but we didn’t know that then and we weren’t moving the ball that great against them (in practice). And then we played Rutgers and got after them. I had a feeling we were going to be pretty good. That was Ross’ first season in two years (after two knee injuries) and he can be a little negative sometimes. He thinks you have to beat everyone by a hundred, and if he doesn’t, he gets mad.”
Touchdown No. 35
The setup: In one of the biggest games at Husky Stadium in decades, the No. 10 Huskies thumped No. 7 Stanford, 44-6, the first haymaker in UW’s march to the 2016 Pac-12 championship.
The play: Browning threw three touchdowns in the game, including his first to true freshman receiver Aaron Fuller late on a 3-yard pass late in the third quarter.
Quoting Browning: “It was a sprint out. That was near the end of the game and at that point it was a blowout. That one was pretty cool.”
Touchdown No. 36
The setup: Washington had lost 12 in a row to their most hated rival to the south — until Browning led the way with a school-record eight touchdowns in a 70-21 victory at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium on Oct. 8, 2016.
The play: The Point. Browning etched his name in the lore of the UW-Oregon rivalry when he pointed at an Oregon linebacker before crossing the goal line on first touchdown run of the game. Browning was actually apologetic after the game — “That’s not me,” he said then — and had to do 500 push-ups the next day. That’s Chris Petersen’s standard punishment for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.
Quoting Browning: “That game felt good just because we hadn’t beaten them in forever and that’s all we heard about, so to get after them was nice.”
Postscript: Browning and the Huskies return to Autzen Stadium next week for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on Oct. 13. Wonder what kind of reception the Husky QB will get?
Touchdown No. 43
The setup: Pettis’ one-hander in the right corner of the Autzen Stadium end zone, while being held by an Oregon defender, might be the best catch a teammate has had off a Browning pass. Pettis had two touchdowns that day against Oregon, and Ross had three.
Quoting Browning: “We kept throwing goal-line fades against them over and over and over — no one could cover Ross or Dante. The celebrations on those touchdowns that year, Dante and Ross took it to another level.”
Touchdown No. 51
The setup: The No. 4 Huskies improved to 9-0 with a 66-27 victory at Cal on Nov. 5, 2016. Browning tied the UW record with six touchdown passes that night, three each to Ross and Pettis.
The play: Browning’s deep pass to Ross late in the first quarter was a bit underthrown, but it gave Ross a chance to make perhaps the most spectacular play of his UW career. He juked or outran most of the Cal defense en route to a 67-yard TD.
Quoting Browning: “That was a bad ball. But that’s what happens when you have good players around you. … I don’t think I totally appreciated that season as much in the moment, just because I felt like I was nitpicking myself a lot. I could get pretty negative that season. We had really good players around me, we had a really good defense, and I was getting all this love (he finished sixth in the Heisman voting), but within the team I didn’t feel like I was the best player on the team by any means. I thought that that team was only going to go as far as I let it, so I think I got a little negative and didn’t totally appreciate it. Looking back on it, we were pretty dominant.”
Touchdown No. 86
The setup: They have formed the most productive and most successful backfield in UW history, and there hasn’t been a bigger — or more crucial — connection between Browning and Gaskin than their late touchdown against Utah on Nov. 18, 2017.
The play: Browning liked the matchup with Gaskin against a linebacker on a wheel route, and the result — a 76-yard TD — tied the score at 23-23 late in the third quarter. Browning would then lead an improbable comeback late, with 10 points in the final minute, in a wild 33-30 victory at Husky Stadium. But Browning knows he was fortunate that the TD pass to Gaskin turned out how it did — the Utah safety nearly had an interception and a potential pick-6.
Quoting Browning: “Myles is really good matching up against linebackers. … That one was really lucky. That guy could have picked it off but just mistimed his jump.”
Touchdown No. 99
The setup: Shortly after becoming the Huskies’ all-time leading passer, Browning scored on a 9-yard touchdown run in the final seconds of the first half last Saturday, giving the Huskies a 21-0 halftime lead. Browning had one of the most efficient performances of his career (completing 23 of 25 passes) in the sort of offensive breakthrough the Huskies had been waiting for.
The play: The designed QB draw was the same play that didn’t work for Browning against Auburn on Sept. 1.
Quoting OC Bush Hamdan: “It was the worst play ever in Week 1. So, then, all of a sudden you run it again and it works.”
Touchdown No. 100
The play: With 9:31 left in the third quarter, Browning rolled to his right and bought time for senior tight end Drew Sample to get open in the middle of the BYU defense. Browning’s pass hit the tight end in the chest and Sample turned and scored on a 15-yard pass play.
Quoting Browning: “Drew has been really consistent for us. He blocks so well you kind of feel like you owe him a couple touchdowns every now and then.”
A breakdown of Jake Browning’s 100 TDs at UW
Passing: 86 (to 20 different receivers)
At Husky Stadium: 57
Vs. Pac-12: 66
Vs. WSU: 4
Vs. Oregon: 11
Most TDs against: Oregon State (12)
Most TDs thrown to: Dante Pettis (23)
Longest TD pass: 81 yards, to Dwayne Washington (vs. Utah State, 2015)
Longest TD run: 21 yards (vs. Cal, 2017)