It was clear from the early going that Michael Penix Jr. wasn’t quite his normal brilliant self. That didn’t end up mattering as Penix did just enough with help from Wayne Taulapapa and the Husky run game plus a surprisingly stout Dawg defense to defeat #20 Texas by a score of 27-20 and cap off an 11-2 season. The Huskies finished the game 11/20 on 3rd downs to traumatize Texas all night and keep long scoring drives going which kept the defense fresh and denied the Longhorns the ball.
Washington decided to go for the razzle dazzle to start off the bowl game as a flea flicker connection from Michael Penix Jr. to Ja’Lynn Polk resulted in a 35-yard gain on the very first play. Unfortunately, Penix’s accuracy wasn’t quite up to his normal standards for a bit after that point. A miscommunication between Penix and a receiver resulted in an interception to end UW’s first scoring try.
The Husky defense was ready to bail out the offense as a Bralen Trice sack set back the Longhorns and helped secure a 3-and-out. On the Texas punt, Edefuan Ulofoshio came through unblocked and got his hands on the ball to give UW field position almost exactly where the pick had been.
Penix though threw a few more incompletions as his deep ball wasn’t on target and miscommunications were frequent. The great field position though allowed for a 46-yard field goal try and Peyton Henry nailed it to put UW on top with a 3-0 lead.
Texas got backed up on the kickoff but moved the ball fairly consistently on their next drive. Washington forced a 4th and short and Texas lined up quick with a WR lined up in the RB spot and got the ball out to him for a 25+ yard gain to the 10-yard line. Things stalled from there helped by a false start and the Texas 3rd and goal try was caught out of bounds. The short field goal by Texas tied the game up at 3.
Washington’s Giles Jackson was brought down at the 12-yard line after a poor decision to take the ball out of the end zone on the kickoff. Penix got up to his 6th straight incompletion before a completion to Odunze got the drive going. Washington moved the ball with several completions to tight ends Jack Westover and Devin Culp before Wayne Taulapapa finally showed up. UW was unwilling to run the ball much but Taulapapa got outside and a nice stiff arm set him free for a 42-yard score to put Washington up 10-3.
On Texas’ next drive they once again got into a 4th and short and went for it in Husky territory but this time Ewers threw poorly for an open Xavier Worthy for a turnover on downs. At this point the refs took over for a while. On 3rd and 14 a Texas DB grabbed Rome Odunze by the horse collar on a deep ball but no DPI was called. Washington instead punted and it easily could’ve been a roughing the punter call but instead it was just running into the kicker and didn’t give UW a first down. Again, UW’s defense forced a 3 and out and despite Jalen McMillan getting tackled after a fair catch there was no flag for interference.
Richard Newton in the game as the #2 RB with Cam Davis unavailable due to injury started off the next drive with an 8-yard and 9-yard gain going up the middle with inside zone. From there though Washington’s offense stalled after pressure forced Penix to let go of it early a couple times and the Huskies punted yet again.
Texas got a first down on a 17-yard gain to their tight end but Washington’s defense stepped up from there. Texas gained 7 yards before throwing incomplete on 3rd and 3 and the punt went into the end zone giving UW the ball at the 20. Washington worked the ball downfield including a pair of conversions on 3rd and 6, one on a draw by Taulapapa and the other a strike to Odunze. That pass to Rome officially gave Penix the all-time UW single-season record for passing yards. However, on 3rd and goal with 7 seconds left a throw to Rome in the end zone hit him in the hands which forced a chip shot field goal as time expired. The 2nd make by Henry put the Dawgs on top 13-3 at the break.
Penix went into the half completing just 16/30 throws at 4.6 yards per attempt. Fortunately the Huskies averaged 9.8 yards per carry in contrast to Texas’ 1.8 yards per carry with both the Longhorns’ top running backs opting out of the game.
Despite the fantastic effort from the Husky defense in the first half it was clear that it couldn’t keep up forever. Quinn Ewers found Xavier Worthy after evading the Husky pass rush and he picked up 21 yards and might’ve had more if not for a nice tackle in the secondary. Shortly after though Ewers threw a little screen pass to the boundary and Cam Bright took a poor angle which allowed Jonathan Brooks to scamper 34 yards for the TD and bring it back to a one score game at 13-10 UW.
Washington was faced with an early tough decision as they had a 4th and 1 well inside their own territory. The Huskies looked to try to draw Texas offsides but Michael Penix took the QB sneak as the play clock wound down and somehow emerged from the pile after looking to be stopped initially. The tight ends helped pick things up from there as Quentin Moore gained 17 yards and Jack Westover 16 yards to help move the ball to 1st and goal at the 6-yard line. Taj Davis got open on the perimeter and easily ran it in towards the corner of the end zone and the TD put UW back up 20-10 to cap the 13-play, 5:47 drive.
Texas looked like they were destined to answer right back. Xavier Worthy beat Jordan Perryman deep on the sideline but dropped it. And to add injury to insult, Perryman accidentally stepped on Worthy and left the game hurt. On the next play Texas went deep to Worthy again and he got behind the entire Husky defense but once again dropped the wide open pass and Texas was forced to punt.
Washington decided they’d had enough at that point. Penix engineered a 14-play, 90 yard drive taking off almost 7 minutes of clock. It was capped off by Jalen McMillan diving on a slant and barely plucking the ball off the turf with fantastic hands for the score. No Husky play went for more than 11 yards including the TD and it led to a 27-10 UW lead.
Jalen McMillan what a grab pic.twitter.com/BSkmeqUwPa— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 30, 2022
It wasn’t over as Texas had their best drive of the night moving the ball consistently down by 3 scores. A pair of 19-yard gains helped put the Longhorns in position and Jonathan Brooks got his 2nd score of the game, this time on the ground from 2nd and goal at the 3. That score brought the Longhorns within 27-17 with 9:50 remaining.
Washington tried their best to run out the clock but in typical Penix/Grubb fashion that still involved at least one deep shot every 3 plays and as was typical on this night none of them were complete. On 3rd and 11 in no man’s land Penix threw it for Odunze down the sideline incomplete. Washington chose to go for it on 4th and 11 and the pass to Polk was inaccurate giving Texas solid field position with just under 5 minutes left.
Fortunately for the Dawgs, Texas didn’t seem to know how to run a hurry-up offense. They got plenty of first downs but seemed to forget the clock would start again once the ball was spotted and seconds continued to tick away. Ewers showed his inexperience again when UW had 12 men on the field but couldn’t snap it before Tuitele got to the sideline and then threw it incomplete on 3rd and 5 rather than getting a free 1st and goal. Texas instead kicked the short field goal to make it 27-20 UW with 1:40 left in the game.
The Longhorns were forced to go for the onside kick but it went straight to a Husky player who reeled it in to end Texas’ chances. Washington ended up punting but it used up the last of Texas’ timeouts and a sack by Voi Tunuufi ensured that the Longhorns could do nothing but throw up a Hail Mary from their own 10-yard line as time expired (which was caught but well short of the end zone).
Penix finished the game 32/54 for 287 yards with 2 TDs and 1 interception. Wayne Taulapapa had 103 yards and a TD on 14 carries in his final game for the Huskies. Jalen McMillan led the receivers with 8 catches for 58 yards and a TD while Rome Odunze had 5 catches for 57 yards.
The Husky win helped cap an astounding turnaround in the 1st year under Kalen DeBoer from 4-8 to 11-2. Now Washington will hope to go even further next season on a team that returns the vast majority of their premium talent. WR Rome Odunze is the only key player with eligibility to possibly return who has not yet announced publicly that they are coming back. Next year’s team loses only the interior of the offensive line (not a small thing), plus Wayne Taulapapa, Jeremiah Martin, Alex Cook, Jordan Perryman, and Cam Bright among starters.
Now we have an agonizing 8 months to wait until the next Husky football game. But what an exciting and fantasy-filled 8 months it’s going to be for Washington fans. Go Dawgs!