No. 9 Washington wakes up late in 45-3 win over North Dakota

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Washington running back Myles Gaskin scores on a 2-yard touchdown carry in the second quarter against North Dakota at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The host Huskies won, 45-3. (Bettina Hansen/Seattle Times/TNS)

SEATTLE (AP) — Jake Browning was salty, filled with irritation about his performance.

He was speaking solely about himself, but the senior quarterback for No. 9 Washington might have been speaking about all of the Huskies’ offense.

“I don’t feel like we really dominated at any point. I think we have a standard that we play to and I don’t feel like we played to it. I don’t feel I played to my standard of how I want to play,” Browning said. “Obviously, happy that we won but not really happy with how I played.”

Browning threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, Ty Jones had two touchdown receptions , and Washington finally pulled away in the second half for a 45-3 victory over North Dakota on Saturday.

The final score was misleading because it gave the impression Washington dominated a lower-division team as it should. They didn’t.

For three quarters Washington’s offense struggled to be consistent. Browning topped 300 yards, but also threw two careless interceptions. The Huskies run game managed just 79 yards through three quarters. Myles Gaskin, the active leader nationally in career running yards beginning the season, was limited to 53 yards on 15 carries, 24 of those yards coming on one run. Washington picked up one first down between the middle of the second quarter and the 5-minute mark of the third quarter.

So much for Washington’s home opener becoming a chance to regroup after the letdown of last week’s season opener loss to No. 7 Auburn. There could be just as many concerns going into next week’s Pac-12 Conference opener at Utah as there were coming out of the Week 1 loss.

“We can do better, certainly running the ball,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said.

Browning was 23 of 37 passing with short TD passes to Jones and Cade Otton. Backup QB Jake Haener added a 12-yard TD pass to Jones in the fourth quarter. Haener was 7 of 7 for 110 yards.

Most concerning for Washington was the lack of a run game. The Huskies finished with 195 yards rushing on 34 carries, but had just 30 yards on 15 carries before Gaskin’s 24-yard run on the final play of the first half. Gaskin had a 2-yard TD run in the first half and Sean McGrew added a 23-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

“We expected a quicker start and to be honest I’m very confused why it was that way. It was such a slow and difficult start,” Washington right tackle Kaleb McGary said. “It is what it is at this point. We got the win as ugly as it may or may not be.”

John Santiago had 18 carries for 139 yards for North Dakota, putting together a performance that was better than what Saquan Barkley did against Washington last year in the Fiesta Bowl. Santiago’s 69-yard dash in the third quarter set up North Dakota’s only points on Brady Leach’s 20-yard field goal.

“I think John is always a bright spot for us because he competes really hard,” North Dakota coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Some of those 3- and 4-yard runs he had today were really good.”

Browning was wearing a brace on his right knee, which he appeared to injure on Washington’s final offensive play of the loss to Auburn. His mobility didn’t appear to be effected, but he was forced to move from the pocket more than the Huskies would have preferred.

His inconsistency seemed to flummox even Petersen, who dropped his head in frustration in the third quarter when Browning overthrew an open receiver in the end zone. Browning capped that drive with a 1-yard TD pass to Otton, but made a poor throw on Washington’s next possession and was intercepted by Hayden Blubaugh.

RUNNING NOWHERE

Washington turned the ball over on downs at the North Dakota 20 early in the second quarter when it couldn’t convert third- or fourth-and-1 on running attempts by Gaskin and Browning. Washington did get a spark in the fourth quarter from backups McGrew and Kamari Pleasant.

Ultimately the inconsistency of the run game didn’t matter against the Fighting Hawks. But it could be an issue next week against Utah.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks run defense is legit. As week after holding Mississippi Valley State to minus-27 yards rushing, North Dakota clogged run lanes and never let Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed control the game on the ground.

Washington: The return of WR Quinten Pounds continues to be a major boost for the Huskies passing game. Pounds had a one-handed touchdown catch in the opener, and followed up with three receptions for 98 yards in the first half against North Dakota, including a 57-yard catch. ... Two key starters didn’t suit up for the Huskies: Center Nick Harris and linebacker D.J. Beavers. Beavers had a walking boot on his left foot on the sideline.

UP NEXT

North Dakota: The Fighting Hawks will be at Sam Houston State.

Washington: The Huskies will be at Utah for the Pac-12 opener.

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