Browning Impressive, Gaskin the Gamebreaker
By Phil Collin, www.theheartofdallasbowl.com
It would have been so easy for Jake Browning to leave the Cotton Bowl field, take a glimpse at the future and smile.
The Washington freshman quarterback really didn’t want any part of that, but if he needs some help, how about the fact the Huskies just piled up 44 points and 580 yards behind the work of two freshmen in the backfield?
After all, Browning completed 23 of 34 passes for 284 yards without an interception, and he wasn’t even the most impressive true freshman on the field in a 44-31 win over Southern Miss in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl Saturday.
The gamebreaker was classmate Myles Gaskin, the smooth running back who broke the game open with an 86-yard touchdown run that was part of his 181-yard, four-touchdown effort for the Huskies.
“There are no true freshmen anymore after playing 12 games,” Browning said. “It was about the seniors. That’s bigger than finishing or catapulting us into next season. We don’t want to talk about that. It was really cool to send off Jaydon (Mickens) and Marvin (Hall) and Sifa (Tufunga). They’ve been through a lot with different coaches and stuff like that. To send them off was pretty cool. I’ll never forget that.”
Washington (7-6) captured a bowl win that eluded the Huskies at the end of Coach Chris Petersen’s first season in Seattle in 2014. This time, he knows he’ll have a backfield of Browning and Gaskin to look forward to in the coming year.
Yet as tempting as looking ahead might be, the Huskies --- despite finishing the season with three consecutive victories, averaging 47 points along the way --- chose to soak in the closing chapter of the 2015 season.
In the first half, Gaskin sometimes looked like a freshman. He doubled back when cornered on one run and lost eight yards and entered the third quarter having carried nine times for 11 yards. He was at 23 yards on 13 carries, Southern Miss had tied the game at 24-24, and a kickoff pinned Washington at its 14-yard line in the third quarter.
On first down. Gaskin took a handoff and headed right, was walled off again, but this time he slipped to his left and burst away. He found the end zone with the help of a key block from Hall, his receiver.
It was as abrupt as the thunderstorms and tornado warnings that hit the Metroplex just after the game.
“We just needed a good drive and the best drives are one-play drives,” Browning said. “He basically takes it 80 yards and it was the Myles Gaskin show a little bit.”
“It starts with the O-line,” said Gaskin, who finished his freshman season with 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns. “And then the receivers don’t get a lot of love on blocks. But I will tell you, they block them too out there. . . . All 11 guys need to be all in.”
Oh, but they couldn’t resist a few tributes to the future.
“Yeah, I think we’re making progress,” Petersen acknowledged. “If we can continue to keep fighting and do the right things, we will do better.”
Mickens, the senior receiver, goes out believing that the foundation of the Washington program has been put in place.
“If I try to instill anything, I try to instill playing for one another,” he said. “And when (Gaskin) came in, we were out there running and I see him shoot out of nowhere. . . . We push each other to the limit and we ultimately see that on the field. It comes out on the field every day.”
And on into next year.