SEATTLE (AP) — Shortly after sustaining a knee injury in the spring of 2015 that would cost him the season, Washington’s John Ross placed the Rutgers logo on a calendar app on his phone, a countdown to when he’d finally get back on the field for the Huskies.
His return proved worth the wait.
Ross caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for another score, Jake Browning threw for 287 yards, and No. 14 Washington looked every bit a Top 25 team with a 48-13 rout of Rutgers on Saturday.
“I feel amazing. I feel great. I’m so thankful, grateful, everything you can think of,” Ross said. “I’m just so happy to be able to do it again.”
Entering a season of lofty expectations, the Huskies (1-0) raced to a 24-0 first-quarter lead and were never threatened by the rebuilding Scarlet Knights, in their first game under new coach Chris Ash.
Browning threw for 277 yards and all three scores in the first half as the Huskies built a 34-3 lead. Browning should have thrown four TDs in the half, but Darrell Daniels dropped a pass in the end zone late in the second quarter.
“It’s good to get out of the gate fast, especially with so many unknowns, unknown coaches, unknown players on both sides,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.
Browning’s offseason goal was to be better on deep throws. He was certainly good to start the season, hitting Chico McClatcher on a 43-yard touchdown on his second pass of the season, followed by TD throws of 38 and 50 yards to Ross as the Huskies burned Rutgers’ decision to play man coverage on the outside.
Ross missed the entire 2015 season after injuring a knee during spring camp.
“It was just really cool to obviously have thrown the ball to him but to see him come into his own after missing all of last season and all the anticipation of him coming back,” Browning said of Ross.
The Huskies were also dynamic on special teams. Ross took a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and Dante Pettis returned a punt 68 yards for a score in the third quarter. It was the third time in school history Washington had kickoff and punt return touchdowns in the same game, and first since 2001.
Rutgers: Ash’s rebuilding job at Rutgers (0-1) is significant and it will take a while for the new offensive system to improve. Chris Laviano was 24 of 40 passing for 168 yards in his first game running a spread offense. Rutgers only TD came on a 10-yard run by Janarion Grant in the fourth quarter against Washington’s backups.
“There was some good and bad. I thought he probably took too many risks sometimes with the ball,” Ash said of Laviano. “I thought he did some good things though especially in the second half.”
Washington: While there were plenty of highlights for the Huskies offense, the run game was absent. Myles Gaskin was held to 57 yards on 15 carries despite Washington spending the majority of the third quarter trying to get the run game established. The Huskies had the luxury to experiment with a 31-point halftime lead.
Washington was expected to roll past the Scarlet Knights but such and impressive first half will only go to justify the Huskies preseason ranking. The next two games against Idaho and Portland State aren’t likely to threaten Washington’s poll positioning so expect them to continue lingering just outside the top 10 for the next few weeks.
Browning threw for more than 300 yards only three times during his freshman season. He nearly had 300 by halftime against Rutgers and if not for the blowout score and the Huskies intent on getting the run game started in the third quarter, Browning would have likely had one of the better passing games of his career.
One of Browning’s touchdown throws to Ross was a run play that he checked to a pass at the line of scrimmage.
“Jake made good throws on deep balls early, so we were pleased with that,” Washington offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights get a break facing Howard of the Football Championship Subdivision, the first of three straight home games.
Washington: The Huskies meager non-conference schedule continues by hosting Idaho. It will be another chance for the Huskies to give some of its younger players experience before the schedule toughens at the end of September.
“Really pleased with how fast they started. The first quarter was really, really good on both sides,” Washington coach Chris Petersen.
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