Well, that was weird.
0 TDs passing for Penix. Two sacks on the star. A QB running all over our team. 12 penalties for 125 yards. Balen Trice achieved only his first sack of the season. And we still scored 31 points. What on Earth happened?
Arizona’s first time with the ball ended in a prompt punt after 3 plays and 1:59 shaved off the clock. One whole yard was gained that possession and this seemed to set the tone for a Husky team that loves setting such a tone early. Only once has an opponent scored on their opening drive this season and it was a field goal to Tulsa.
Doing what they do, the Husky offense rolled onto the field and scored a quick TD with Penix going 5/5 for 56 yards and relenting the score to running back Dillon Johnson.
Feeling good about themselves, Husky nation watched as another rushing score put the team up 14-0. Whispers of a curse that have dotted the horizon for a week seemed to dissipate and UW believed in themselves once again.
That’s when the game turned weird. Arizona’s QB, Fifita, making his first start ever settled in and opened up the field, running in either direction at will. The Wildcat, was just that, a five-foot-nine small and speedy player who escaped almost every blitz Washington threw at him. Easily he found McMillan open and cashed in several times for big gains. A first quarter where he had 16 total yards saw improvement the next quarter where the QB threw 75.
Familiar issues for Husky fans who know about the desert settled in. Once again, a rushing QB did that a bunch all over a UW defensive line that kept getting trapped in the middle. Probably the bigger issue for the team was the running clock, a trait of the game that happens as more rushes are being attempted.
With this, the Husky offense had less time to do what it normally does, and only scored three touchdowns in the first half. Most teams would feel blessed to have that luxury, but it did give Husky Nation a stench of under performing.
Michael Penix had no touchdowns on the day, opting to give the RBs every opportunity that came up. In doing so, he falls slightly behind in the Heisman race; however, with dates against USC and Oregon coming up, the future is in his palm. Even with this, he finished 30-40 for 363 yards today and showed everyone that he isn’t a one shot deep thrower who makes the infrequent risky decision. He picked apart the defense with screens and slants in the middle.
Weird things happen in the desert but so can scary ones that give us a sigh of relief when we see the looming bye week. Westover (TE) and Ale (DT) were both shaken up early, but returned to the game. A larger impact to the game today was the injury to Tuli Letuligasenoa that opened up space on defense.
This team looked dominant all season, but today took a step back. They shouldn’t fall in the rankings as this was their first road conference game of the season in a season in a stadium that regularly gives us trouble. For context, in 2016 it took OT to beat a less talented Arizona team and that team was still a CFP team.
Sure the conference is more competitive, and league as a whole (thanks to the transfer portal), but we shouldn’t be concerned. The team went 11-2 last year beating Oregon in Eugene and Texas in the Alamo Bowl, and this was after they started 4-2. Already the team is ahead of last year’s history and the story continues to be written.
Can this team pull through? Absolutely. Today proved that this team has a rushing attack and short pass attack just as good as its deep pass attack. Utah lost and showed weakness, making November slightly easier for the team.
Looking ahead, all over our hearts skip a beat as the game we’ve been waiting for since January is finally on the docket. Oregon comes to town featuring a powerful offense and a gritty defense. Washington has called for a purple out and as the Huskies move to 5-0, there’s no reason to not be excited for this game.
One last thing. [Screw] Oregon.