In a corner of Reser Stadium, an overjoyed Washington Huskies football fan yelled down at coach Chris Petersen from the stands after the game.
“Whatever you told them at halftime worked, coach,” the man roared.
Petersen looked up and gave an approving nod.
Maybe this is the Huskies on less familiar turf this season — sleepwalkers in the first half, firecrackers after intermission.
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That is the script the No. 6 Huskies have followed so far on the road in 2017 — and did again Saturday in their 42-7 victory over punchless Oregon State in front of 37,821 at Reser Stadium.
The win completed back-to-back unbeaten Septembers (5-0) under fourth-year UW coach Chris Petersen.
Jake Browning tossed three second-half touchdown passes to favorite target Dante Pettis, two coming in the third quarter. It was the senior’s second career game of three touchdown catches.
And a week after going for a career-high 202 rushing yards against Colorado, running back Myles Gaskin eclipsed the 100-yard barrier again (game-high 113 yards). He also added a 32-yard touchdown scamper as part of the Huskies’ (5-0, 2-0) big third quarter.
“We got some things going in the second half,” Petersen said. “That is how it goes sometimes.”
Nobody is ready to declare the first-half struggles a troublesome trend, but Browning looked as hesitant throwing the football as he has all season.
But a more assured Browning came out after halftime, and went right to work on a sieve-like Oregon State (1-4, 0-2) secondary.
They were bringing some stuff we weren’t used to, so we adjusted at halftime,” Browning said. “We came out and started going fast … and I think that is when we got into a rhythm and started moving the ball really well.”
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He completed his first pass, a 32-yarder, to tight end Hunter Bryant that got the Huskies past midfield.
Then came one of Petersen’s most interesting calls during his UW tenure after the Beavers had the UW stopped cold, forcing a fourth down from the 25-yard line.
UW’s Tristan Vizcaino had missed a 42-yard field goal in the first half. Rather than trot out a struggling kicker, Petersen opted to go for it on fourth-and-10.
More interesting was the play call, which was something Browning checked to at the line of scrimmage: A delayed inside run for Lavon Coleman, who broke it right for 20 yards, and a first down.
“There was literally nobody over there (on the right side),” Browning said.
On the next play, Browning connected with Pettis on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone for a 5-yard score, and UW had a 14-0 lead 2:17 into the second half.
It helped that the UW defense thoroughly dominated a Beavers offense without injured starting quarterback Jake Luton (spine). Oregon State kept feeding powerhouse running back Ryan Nall — until he left with an injury early in the third quarter after a 17-yard catch.
Nall finished with 18 rushing yards on nine carries, and added five catches for 44 yards.
“I think last week, Colorado kind of got us on some of those plays,” UW linebacker Tevis Bartlett said. “We did a really good job this week making those adjustments in practice, and that showed up today.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies kept piling on the points.
Facing a third down, Browning looked Pettis’ way the whole time down the left sideline After Pettis made a move on the defensive back, he was grabbed purposely to impede his progress.
Pettis kept asking for a penalty as he broke for the end zone. Browning laid a perfect high pass in his direction, and Pettis came out of it with a 34-yard touchdown catch at the 8:51 mark of the third quarter anyway.
“Any time you get a few completions and get the ball moving a little bit, it just gives everybody a sense of confidence.” said Pettis, who had a career-high 12 receptions for 105 yards, his fifth career 100-yard receiving game.
Six-and-a-half minutes later, Gaskin ripped off a 32-yard touchdown run around the right corner, and the Huskies were in firm control — 28-0.
Oddly enough, the Huskies had one of their best drives of the season right from the get-go.
Browning completed 4 of 5 passes on the Huskies’ opening series, including a 40-yarder to Quinten Pounds along the right sideline that put the UW at the Beavers’ 24.
Four plays later, on third-and-7, Browning was flushed left, and took off when he saw a huge opening. He waltzed in from 11 yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the season, capping a 10-play, 98-yard march for a quick 7-0 UW lead.
It was just the UW’s second first-half offensive touchdown in three road games.
Browning finished with 293 yards on 26 of 34 passing with three touchdowns. Pettis pulled in 12 of the passes for 105 yards.
Even though the Huskies crossed midfield on two other drives, they came away with nothing.
The last one came midway through the second quarter. Starting from its own 5-yard line, the UW got as far as the Beavers’ 17 before Browning was sacked on third down — one of three first-half sacks he absorbed.
Vizcaino’s field goal try clanked off the left upright, and the drive that lasted more than five minutes went for naught.