SEATTLE (AP) — Jake Browning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Fuller on fourth down with less than four minutes remaining, and No. 15 Washington held off Colorado 27-13 on Saturday.
Washington’s four-year starting quarterback had an unremarkable game up until the Huskies (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) needed a big play. Rather than trying for a long field goal, Browning and the Huskies’ offense stayed on the field. Facing a Colorado blitz, Browning found Fuller on a quick slant with nothing but the end zone ahead.
Salvon Ahmed and Kamari Pleasant both scored on touchdown runs in the first half for the Huskies, who played without starting running back Myles Gaskin due to a shoulder injury. Washington’s offense was far from its best but found enough running options in the backfield to control the game on the ground. The stable of Ahmed, Pleasant and Sean McGrew led the way for a run game that rushed for 201 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per rush.
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez threw for 144 yards, but the Buffaloes (5-2, 2-2) were shut out and held to 86 total yards of offense in the second half. Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven had 15 tackles and intercepted Montez late in the fourth quarter.
Both teams were without an offensive star. Gaskin, who has been astonishingly durable, missed the first game of his career after aggravating his shoulder injury during a loss last week to Oregon. Gaskin went through pregame warmups in uniform and with his pads on, but when the team took the field for kickoff, he was in sweats on the sideline.
The Buffaloes played without Laviska Shenault Jr., the top receiver in the country, due to a toe injury suffered last week in a loss to USC. Shenault was responsible for 11 total touchdowns through six games.
At least initially, the Buffaloes appeared fine without Shenault. Colorado went 80 yards on its first possession, capping it with a 37-yard TD pass from Montez to freshman Daniel Arias for the first catch of his college career.
But that was the most effective Colorado drive of the game. The Buffaloes had just two drives of more than 40 yards and couldn’t convert a major opportunity late in the first half. Browning was intercepted by Nick Fisher, who returned the turnover to the Washington 9 with 2:12 left in the first half. But the Buffaloes failed to gain any yardage and settled for a 26-yard field goal from Evan Price, cutting Washington’s lead to 14-13 at halftime.
Browning was 15 of 25 for 150 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Along with Shenault, the Buffaloes were without fellow wide receiver Jay MacIntyre, cornerback Delrick Abrams Jr. and kicker James Stefanou. The absence of Shenault and MacIntyre took 74 receptions and eight touchdown catches from the Buffs’ offense — although 60 of those catches and six touchdowns belonged to Shenault.
Colorado: The Buffaloes are fortunate to be in the Pac-12 South, where they should stay in the division race despite the loss. Every team already has one loss and the Buffaloes have a manageable schedule, facing both Washington State and Utah at home next month.
Washington: The Huskies were lethargic early but rebounded nicely from the loss at Oregon. The Huskies still have Stanford and Washington State on the schedule, meaning they will have major influence on the Pac-12 North race.
Colorado: The Buffaloes return home to face Oregon State.
Washington: The Huskies travel to California next week.
By TIM BOOTH