Airing out issues of Washington Football passing game

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 04: Injured wide receiver Chico McClatcher
SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 04: Injured wide receiver Chico McClatcher /
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GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Jake Browning
GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Jake Browning /

The 2017 Washington Football season was a partial success. But the passing offense did not meet expectations. Can the 2018 passing game reclaim some swagger for the team?

The 2017 Washington Football team ended their season at the conclusion of the Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State University, 35-28.  That dropped the team to a 10-3 record overall, and 7-2 in the highly competitive Pac-12 conference. The team won ten games, and did so with opportunistic play on offense, and a stifling defense. We examined the team’s losses  earlier. The team lost games by losing an offensive identity, letting the defense play the majority of game time on the field, and not answering back offensively in games where the defense could not carry the day.

Much of the answer lies in trusting the running game more in big games. But perhaps an even bigger answer lies in deep diving into the struggles of the Washington passing offense in 2017.  While Jake Browning‘s accuracy actually improved, his passing attempts actually declined significantly. Part of the problem was the offense’s success.  Washington’s ability to score quickly meant many games were decided early.  And so, that  usually meant Browning was pulled early too. While that helped to avoid injury, it did not allow him the opportunity to work with receivers who would eventually start.

Passing game fell apart in 2017

Compounding the matter is the fact that the team never found former-Husky wide receiver John Ross‘s replacement.  Washington coaches had to manage the team’s weekly preparation despite a constant stream of injuries to key players in the receiving corps.  And it showed in the statistics.  Browning had a streak of 20 consecutive games with throwing at least 1 touchdown pass hard-halted at the hands of the Arizona State University Sun Devils. But they were not the only team to do so.

Browning failed to deliver a touchdown pass against UCLA as well. And once more in a critical matchup against Stanford. Then one more time in the bitter annual rivalry game against Washington State.   That streak carried into the Fiesta Bowl, where Browning’s lone touchdown pass to Aaron Fuller in the third quarter with the Nittany Lions already out to a comfortable 28-14 lead in the game allowed Penn State to gamble on offense and defense.