Dreadful as these college-football payday mismatches are — the Montana Grizzlies received $625,000 to come get their snouts whacked in the big city — the Washington Huskies rolled out an entertainment extravaganza Saturday night that made it fairly easy to ignore the 63-7 scoreboard travesty. Sort of like when Mom lets the kids skip the vegetables and permits dessert for dinner.
Trick plays, spectacular touchdown returns, improbable turnovers, two touchdowns by UW’s only player, TE Will Dissly, from Montana, and a Jake Browning scramble so unwieldy but effective that it inspired Huskies coach Chris Petersen to a colorful analogy.
“It’s an interesting style, isn’t it?” he said. “I close my eyes half the time when he reverses his field.
“He’s like a knuckleball when he runs — guys run past him.”
If Browning was a knuckleball, Trey Adams was a change-up. When the 330-pound left tackle took a lateral from Browning in the third quarter 15 yards from paydirt, 68,491 at Husky Stadium gasped, then settled in, as the trick play rolled out in slow motion.
“That looked really slow,” Petersen said. “I thought it would look better than that.”
At the Montana 13, Browning took the snap and rolled right, then threw left to Adams, who dropped back from the line deep enough to make Browning’s toss a lateral.
He had blockers and headed for the corner of the end zone, but was cut down at the legs at the 3-yard line, then lost the ball out of bounds.
“He broke a lot of hearts tonight,” Petersen said, grinning. “A lot of linemen across the country were sad he couldn’t get in, and fumbled.
“We’re going to work on knee drive and ball security (with Adams) starting tomorrow. We’re going to make some linemen proud in this country.”
Adams went along with the joke.
“I probably won’t do any line drills,” he said, regaling reporters with stories from his Wenatchee High School days when he scored on a two-point conversion and caught a ball on a hook-and-ladder play.
Asked whether he’s now on the scout list for every Pac-12 defensive coordinator, he said, “They should watch out for me.”
The coordinators already were on alert for large No. 72 and the rest of his experienced linemates in their conventional poses, especially after Saturday.
In contrast to the sluggish opener at Rutgers, Washington ran for 213 yards and passed for 293 yards and allowed no harm to come to Browning. Granted, it was a Big Sky Conference opponent, but the Huskies looked as a seventh-ranked team should against an FCS-level team seeking to balance the athletics budget via the blood and sweat of its unpaid employees.
“We wanted to play harder and faster and not worry about making mistakes,” Petersen said of the one-week improvements. “We accomplished that. It was also important to play a lot of young guys. It’s a long season, and we’re going to need them.”
After a 35-7 intermission lead, the second half was given over to the second and third teams, many members of which were seeing their first collegiate action.
One of reserves, junior CB Jomon Dotson, turned up the circus calliope to 11 late in the third quarter on a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown. Dotson started left after the catch, then reversed his field and had a couple of jittery escapes before nearly running out of gas.
“I never saw a guy in my life get so tired after an interception when the goal line’s staring at him,” Petersen said, smiling. “The monkey jumped his back, but at least he got across the goal line.”
Dotson’s wild run barely topped for spectacle the 67-yard punt return touchdown in the second quarter by Dante Pettis. The TD return was his second of the season and seventh of his career, a Pac-12 record and one short of the NCAA career mark.
The question of the moment: Why would anyone kick to him?
“Coming into this year, I didn’t think I would get that many returns,” Pettis said. “I said that before last game, and I said it before this game.
“People keep surprising me.”
There was no surprise with the Huskies defense, which pitched a shutout and held the Grizzlies to 163 yards of offense. The only score came on a pick-six when Montana CB Josh Sandry grabbed a tipped Browning pass in the first quarter and returned it 36 yards for a score and a tie at 7.
Even that score wouldn’t have happened if the arm of intended receiver Pettis hadn’t been held by a defender, who went unpenalized as the ball caromed away.
The Montana TD was only slightly less relevant than the entirety of the evening. But the Huskies’ ability to keep things at least amusing in these blowouts inspired a question about attempting fat-man scores with other members of the line.
Petersen quickly put a stop to that talk.
“That’s nuts,” he said. “Let’s not stir this up. Four guys kinda pout, one guy’s very happy. They’re kinda happy when one of their brothers gets to touch the ball.”
But he’s already staked a claim to the hearts of America’s linemen. No time to walk back that talk now.