Huard: Jake Browning’s confidence seems to have wavered entering UW’s Apple Cup matchup vs WSU

Nov 22, 2016, 7:00 AM | Updated: 9:12 am
Jake Browning completed just 55 percent of his passes over the past two games, well off his season ...
Jake Browning completed just 55 percent of his passes over the past two games, well off his season mark. (AP)
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Jake Browning has unquestionably had a standout sophomore season as the No. 6 Washington Huskies’ quarterback. But entering perhaps the program’s biggest game since the turn of the century, he’s mired in a bit of a slump.

Over the past two games, Browning has completed 55 percent of his passes, which is far from a disappointing number but still a ways off his 64.3 percentage for the season. And with the Huskies heading to Pullman for Friday’s 12:30 p.m. Apple Cup on 710 ESPN Seattle, it’s hardly an opportune time for him to struggle.

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Brock Huard of 710 ESPN Seattle said on “Brock and Salk” Monday that Browning seems to have lost some confidence in recent weeks, especially in the pocket, which is something that started to become apparent in UW’s lone loss of the year, a 26-13 defeat at the hands of USC on Nov. 12.

“I think the greatest asset that Jake has is that he doesn’t flinch. You don’t see it in his mechanics at all,” Huard said during the Blue 42 segment. “In the last couple games, in particular against USC and even ASU in the first half, when he’s climbing the pocket he’s just flinching a little. … As a second-year player who has taken on all this expectation, all of this pressure that has mounted week after week, you see him just flinching just a little bit, his feet getting a little happy, the ball changing position.”

That’s resulted in a rough two-week stretch in which Browning has thrown more interceptions (four) than he had in the nine games before combined (three) and lacked the same kind of pinpoint accuracy he showed earlier in the year.

“There were four, five, six opportunities (against ASU) where a deep out is thrown behind, an in route is thrown high for a pick, nearly a pick-six,” Huard said.

Confidence is a fickle thing, and it certainly won’t be easier for Browning to get back on track Friday in one of the biggest Apple Cups of all-time. The game will decide the Pac-12 North championship and is a must-win for UW to keep its chances alive to be included in the four-team College Football Playoff that will determine the national title. And as if that isn’t enough pressure for Browning, it will also be his first time playing in front of the No. 23 Cougars’ home crowd at Martin Stadium in Pullman.

“He’s gotta be on it. If (the Huskies) have any chance to win the next two weeks at Wazzu and in a championship game, he’s gotta get back to being the confident, high-percentage, strike-plate performer he was the first seven weeks of the season,” Huard said.

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Huard: Jake Browning’s confidence seems to have wavered entering UW’s Apple Cup matchup vs WSU