‘T’was 2022 when I was beginning my year long adventure in Europe and living primarily in Romania. One thing I always did with my then-girlfriend was watch every single Husky game, from Kent State to Washington State. That’s how hard we went for the Huskies, dressing down completely in purple gold and enjoying three in the morning games on Sundays.
Why do I bring this up? Because it was in Timisoara, a historical site in the story of Nicolae Ceausescu, that an Oregon fan found us wearing the purple for the Stanford game that week. A few insults were tossed and I was admittedly shocked at the audacity, but more so surprised that this rivalry transcended the Atlantic Ocean. And obviously, jabs were a back and forth affair. And what has happened since?
Here we go. It’s now December 1, 2023. The matchup in October was the highest ranked contest between these two at the time and it took less than 2 months to break that record. #3 Washington went 12-0 in the regular season for the first time ever, becoming the first team to do so in the current Pac-12 conference structure (2011). While the Ducks entered #5 in the nation and never ceasing to score fewer than thirty points. The Huskies barely won in Seattle and since then have had up and down and confusing victories. Oregon has blown the door off every one of their opponents thus why the books opened at favoring the Ducks by 9.5. That collision course brought us here.
Penix & co. stormed the field with enough force to set the tone from the get go. Immediately, the previous concerns of injury or other issues evaporated, the offense clicking to the likes of which Husky nation hasn’t seen since Cal in September. Even with an incomplete pass on the first throw, Penix looked like himself — rocketing balls into the smallest of spaces with the confidence of a Trojan Angel.
Dillon Johnson promptly ripped off a 9 yard rush and from 3rd & 1 a seven yard pass was completed to Johnson. The perpetrator of sixteen fresh yards and new downs at midfield, he got the ball for one more rush before Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan contributed and gave a fire to this offense that was a brilliant display of strength to see. Unfortunately, the drive petered into a field goal after Penix’s knee barely touched the ground for a sack turning a 1st & 10 into a 2nd & 17.
Down 3-0, Bo Nix and the Oregon Ducks (once again favored by 9.5 points) came onto the scene and instead of answering, threw 3 incompletions for a shockingly quick three-and-out. Penix answered the next drive completing two passes while Dillon Johnson hit for 27 yards on three rushes. Easily, the score turned to 10-0 Washington, which by all accounts was an expectation that would’ve been slandered for being unrealistic by the football world.
Nix got the ball again and for the second time in their team’s first two drives they went three and out and punt. What’s going on?, some ask and honestly almost everyone (besides the Husky football team themselves) were likely asking this. The Huskies take the field with an unreal opportunity to get the score up to 17-0 and then the mistakes rear their ugly face.
After punting, Oregon grabbed the ball and scored a field goal, managing to cut the deficit to seven points. The veins started to tighten a bit on Husky nation but Penix and the Dawgs beat the pressure to build a 20-3 lead on a Dillon Johnson pop pass to Germie Bernard out of the wildcat; the biggest hole Oregon had faced all season. With a couple minutes left in the second half it looked to be a Husky blowout.
That’s when the jets were turned on and Bo Nix led the Ducks to 21 unanswered points. The perfect comeback was laid and Oregon seemed ready. A missed intentional grounding and dubious defensive pass interference call on back-to-back plays set up a one-handed Oregon touchdown with 9 seconds left in the first half. The Ducks then drove right down and scored to start off the second half and inch ever closer.
Following picks by both QBs, it was 24-20 Oregon after Bo Nix scrambled 44 yards down the left sideline with no one there to set up the surpassing touchdown. It was at this same point in the game in October that Penix struggled on consecutive possessions and the same fear was returning.
Penix though led the team straight down for a touchdown riding the back of Dillon Johnson who finished the night with 28 carries for 152-yards and 2 touchdowns. This all came on one of CFB’s best defenses and obviously, his legs, as injured as they should’ve been, were not going to stop churning until the game was won.
With the score at 27-24, Penix led the Dawgs back down until on 3rd and goal from the 1, third string tight end Quentin Moore leaked out and caught just his second pass of the season for a touchdown. That score made it 34-24 with barely a couple minutes for Bo Nix to make magic happen.
And well, he did. Of course he did. He finished the regular season with the most passing yards in the conference and the best touchdown to interception ratio. And in a blink of an eye his team knocked on the door of destiny after a long catch and run went for 63 yards through and around the Husky prevent defense. 34-31.
That’s where the Huskies were. The first and second win the Deboer-Penix combo had over Lanning-Nix were both written off with the explanation that Oregon lost the games because of failed fourth down conversions. Oregon went 2/2 on those today and with the game within reach, Bo Nix didn’t even have a chance to try. This game was won on the line of scrimmage, in the air, and defensively as Washington outplayed the heavy favorites in virtually every metric. And three consecutive runs for 26 yards by Dillon Johnson after 1st and 20 sealed the deal and allowed the kneel down to close things out.
That’s what happened. Since this random occurrence in the middle-of-nowhere Transylvania, after this particular (American) Oregon fan shouted, “Washington sucks! Boo the Huskies! Oregon will destroy them,” the Dawgs have gone 3-0 against the Ducks. Bo Nix suffered four losses since then, three to the Huskies, and each game had climbing intensity and stakes. While Nix’s Heisman campaign ends, Penix still has a strong case supported by his record, strength of record and performance on the night that saw 319 yards on 27/39 passing, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. The Championship MVP was all smiles as the so far 24-2 record at Washington culminates in the conference title.
The Huskies now sit back with several awards players are eyeing and the expectation of a likely Rose Bowl matchup which is only fitting as it seems to be likely against Michigan — a traditional B1G rival. Now, instead of waiting for news on what NY6 bowl game they’ll play, the’ve got the CFP on lock. And of course the first ever team to win the Pac-8 now closes the Pac-12 in a shower of purple, gold, and smiles.
The team was here to make their name. They have. The legacy is only growing. And right now, it has been a very long time since the West Coast dreamed of this, with Washington just 2 games away from an undefeated national title season.
The writing’s on the wall, CFB. #BowDowntoWashington