When the TVs and radios finally changed from the cold molasses that was Michigan @ Penn State, the Heavens finally aligned and there was no sound sweeter than the familiar air raid siren.
UW won the coin toss and elected to defer the kick, firing up a sellout crowd still filing into their seats. Tuli took to the field along with ZTF and Bralen Trice and promptly did what Husky nation has sorely been missing — shut down the opposing offense. In fact, it was him and Trice who delivered the hits on the opening drive’s only rush attempt. Seeing an unfamiliar 3rd and long, UW capitalized on forcing a three and out.
Coming back out for a second try, the Utah offense was sufficiently stuffed for a second straight drive, this one just slightly longer than before. Giving access back to Penix & co., Washington looked as though they were running away with this thing. Number nine thoroughly decimated the field with wind at the highest levels this season, picking apart Utah defense. His Heisman campaign was extended with McCarthy’s slow day in Happy Valley, and Penix decided the skies were his.
Unfortunately, when things start this way the game typically changes.
Utah started their third possession well, and covered the length of the field to match the score with their own touchdown. There are those who'd chalk it up to penalties that killed that drive, Mishael Powell grabbing a DPI, but the more likely story is missed tackles in the secondary. It was Elijah Jackson who attempted to make a play at the boundary and badly missed, allowing a breaking play.
Two things promptly became clear. 1). Utah was going to make this game a competitive one for the Huskies. 2). Bryson Barnes (Utah's QB) had found success exposing UW's tackling -- or lack thereof, among the backfield.
The crowd kept the Huskies amped substantially, Penix now confident enough to let it rip in the wind. Some throws were carried too far by said elements, sure, but the Heisman front runner showed why he is such. Washington saw the half come to a close down 28-24 and Penix 177 yards. By all intents and purposes, in no way should he have had success in the windy rain like this and even though he was 13-27, it was there. A chaotic sequence closed out the first half with the refs confusingly not explaining a confusing penalty call and the first half came to a close.
Washington fans will have to contend with the chest pains a little longer, and this is in no way a drag on the team that is now 10-0. Maybe the greatness and the relative newness of it is why the fans are so anxiety ridden when watching these games. The stakes have rarely ever been higher for the Dawgs.
Coming out of the half, the Huskies could finally put this away by taking a TD and scoring again. Instead, after a big run from Johnson, the wind and weather created conditions requiring of a punt. Something different happened though, and it was very nice to see. The defense stuffed the Utah running back and a couple incompletions. Not only that, but they did it again the drive after. In fact, the defense didn't give up a single point in the second half to a team that practically walked all over them in the first half. It was all but sealed once Tuputala picked off Barnes for a would be pick six before a premature celebration saw a fumble on the opposite side of the field. Next play up and the Husky defense grabs a safety.
Dillon Johnson is noticeably getting better and his confidence is soaring. He finished with 104 yards on 23 carries. Penix made his Heisman case once again with 332 yards on 24-42 passing, 3 total TDs and no INTs. All of this came in the monster wind and cold precipitation he had to deal with.
For the first time since 1991 the Huskies are 10-0 and Penix is more and more likely to run away with the Heisman. Eyes are on two specific games starting with Ole Miss at Georgia at 7:30 EST. Ole Miss loses, Oregon State vaults into the top ten likely for the second top ten matchup this season for the Huskies. Georgia loses and now Washington sits in the top four with a virtual lock on the top three of they win out. The other game, what in the world will do USC do with Oregon?
The time is now and the West coast belongs to Washington. Purple is reigning. The inevitable is here. We are living through history.
Also, can we not have these anxiety filled games anymore?