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Washington Downs USC in an Epic, 52-42

In a battle of western gold, purple prevails

Washington v USC
Dillon Johnson #7 of the Washington Huskies celebrates a touchdown against the USC Trojans in the second quarter
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The sun begins to set in Hollywood in what then turns into a twilight battle between two of the game’s best quarterbacks. The hype paid off fully for the offensive stalwarts and in a battle of western gold, the two best teams historically in what was the Pac-8, Pac-10, and then the Pac-12 met one last time as Pac-12 teams.

Caleb Williams & co was the first to see the field on this dry evening leading the Trojans to an opening touchdown in six minutes — a drive that spanned 75-yards. The drive was a spectacular release of pent up frustration, the USC Trojans dropping two consecutive losses to Notre Dame and tag before barely clinging to life against a weak Cal team.

Washington v USC
Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans fumbles the ball against Zion Tupuola-Fetui #4 of the Washington Huskies in the second quarter
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

0-7 reads the scoreboard as Penix stomps out into the Coliseum for his debut on this field a Pac-12 contending team and did not disappoint. If there was a way to describe the raw emotions running through the veins of Husky nation, it would be an anxiety-ridden, clammy palm feeling of anticipation. Two straight weeks against sub par opponents saw the Huskies barely escape with a 2-0 record and with the drop of the CFP rankings and tightening of the Heisman race, Washington was out of time.

That may just be it, however, as it was Washington who not only played as though they had all the time in the world, but performed as though they were dictating the clock to go their way. In ten plays, the Huskies crawled the same length of the field and did so in five minutes. Not only was Penix ready to wheel-and-deal but surprisingly, the Huskies came out rushing the ball with determination.

“The drive was a spectacular release of pent up frustration”

That drive consisted of five rushes for a nice and easy five yards a gain. Earlier this week an article was published that criticized the Huskies for what appeared to become a stagnant, one dimensional offense. If the QB was injured, ill, or both, who could step up? The query was simple: outside of passing, what do the Huskies do well? The Huskies came out in the first half ready to prove what the answer undeniably is: whatever the hell we want.

Washington v USC
Dillon Johnson #7 of the Washington Huskies runs against the USC Trojans in the second quarter
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

UW closed out the first half trading score back and forth and averaged 10 yards a carry and seven yards per pass. In the words of a legendary LA band, nothing else matters, and in the first half of play that held true. Caleb Williams was going to make magic happen the way Caleb Williams makes magic happen, escaping from several would be sacks if it were any other quarterback handling the snap. It truly was a beauty to watch USC on primetime television fighting for their season. In fact, their offense appeared rather unstoppable, and a fumble near their end zone with the score tied and the clock at about minute left in the 2nd quarter made it easier for UW fans to breathe.

Finally, UW caught the break and headed into halftime up 35-28 and receiving the kick after the break.

Another question loomed and to paraphrase Kirk Herbstreit, “USC’s getting manhandled in the front seven and how does Alex Grinch respond? You have 20 minutes and at the end of the day, you have what you have on the field.”

Well, for more or less, USC did end up generating somewhat of an answer, slowing down the rushing just enough to force Penix to make more decisions. This chess match of Pac-12 royalty had a near check on the UW King until Penix made the next move. He opened up the field, seeing Odunze and Polk, both of them making unreal catches in the heat of each moment.

“This chess match of Pac-12 royalty had a near check on the UW King until Penix made the next move.”

The trade continued, touchdown for touchdown. It didn’t even look as though the defenses were bad, the made plays, takeaways and some stops. The field consisted of two generational talents at the pinnacle of their college careers, in the what is possibly the best offensive systems this year. This was a strike after strike, each blow met by the opponent and the battle was a stalemate.

Washington v USC
Head coach Kalen DeBoer of the Washington Huskies in the second quarter
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

One thing that is worth mentioning is that Pac-12 refs continued to do what they do, calling penalties that were so obscure they could very well have been made up. And even if they were in the rule book, the execution of the flags showed something less than to be desired, a tacky-tack display of officiating ineptitude. For one play, the ball was snapped directly to the running back with Penix and skills players looking to the sideline — faking as though they were waiting for a play. This isn’t the first time a team has done so, a few plays come to mind with the old Patriots of the 2010’s doing the exact same thing with Brady. Another interesting penalty was called against an offensive lineman in the first half, a player who lost a helmet and was flagged for continuing to play.

Regardless, this wasn’t a game the Huskies had to fight the refs to win and in fact, it seemed as though the Huskies were called for far less penalties than usual. Even if the number was overall above average for a top-five team, it felt as though this wasn’t an issue. Scoring remained high and holdings and pass interferences UW normally get called against them didn’t make an appearance.

As the Huskies pulled away with a field goal to go up 45-42 and then a second USC punt that gave them their seventh touchdown of the night, Washington closed the door on this chapter.

Penix finished the day with 22-30 passes completed and 256 yards grabbed. 2 touchdowns could be enough to keep him in the lead in Heisman contention as JJ McCarthy of Michigan grabbed no touchdowns against Purdue. Washington improves to 9-0 and substantially improves their resume mostly on the backs of Dillon Johnson’s 256 yard performance. He finished with four touchdowns.

Next week, we bring Utah into town for our Veteran’s Day matchup. CFP rankings update on Tuesday once again. 572 total yards and one victory tells a big tale.

This Husky team is still the fun team we love. And they’re ready to crash CFB.