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One Game More: Huskies Survive Texas 37-31 to Advance to National Title Game

#2 undefeated Washington will take on #1 undefeated Michigan for the championship next Monday

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Huskies traveled to New Orleans for this year’s Sugar Bowl, the scene of year round festivities that seem to live in a different world for any visitor. Combined with Washington’s penchant for close victories it seemed clear that we were in for some fireworks. Those fireworks came accompanied with heart attacks for the UW faithful though as Texas got 4 shots at the end zone from inside the red zone in the closing seconds for a chance at victory. The last of those attempts though was swatted away by Elijah Jackson with no time remaining to preserve a 37-31 victory and advance Washington to the National Title game to play #1 Michigan next Monday.

Texas entered the day at 4-point favorites in large part to the proximity to home, but also in Vegas’s unwavering confidence in the defensive-line and rushing attack that the Longhorns possessed heading into the game. At the helm of this stable juggernaut, this somewhat balanced attack on both sides of the ball was Quinn Ewers — a talented pocket passer with the IQ among the best.

But what are the Huskies?

Thankfully, the Huskies came to the game with a better passing attack, a better secondary and the mindset to dominate the line of scrimmage early.

And that they did, delivering on the first drive, knocking Texas out of rhythm early as Ewers lost had a couple passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. The Longhorns showed a strong running game early reverted back to passing and Texas was forced to punt a minute in.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Penix & co. rolled out onto the field and attempted to establish their offensive tone with a rush to Dillon Johnson off a free play for five yards. Texas’ elite defensive line couldn’t get past the Husky offensive line giving Penix enough time to find Polk for an open 77-yard catch-and-run involving a nice broken tackle.

A pair of Dillon Johnson runs made it 7-0 Huskies.

Texas seemed to find their mojo again using the run to weed out holes in the Husky defense and were able to tie the game up on an efficient drive. Swiftly, though, Washington scored again, this time Penix using another passing bomb with an improbable chance for the receiver to catch it to make gains.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

14-7 and Washington brought Texas to another punt. In fact, at this point in the game, a little into the second quarter, the Husky defense — the subject of much criticism over the weeks held Texas to three drives, 12 plays, six total yards on the two non-scoring possessions. The unreal performance was unexpected on both sides of the fandom and now the Huskies had a chance at a two-score lead.

That dream quickly fell apart though as Germie Bernard fumbled the punt, giving Texas a massive boost in field position and allowing for a quick score. Now, instead of a 21-7 or 17-7 advantage, the score was tied at 14.

Both teams went into halftime tied at 21-21 shortly afterward as Ja’Lynn Polk scored on a bobbled 29-yard touchdown catch before Texas answered in less than 90 seconds just before the break.

Things exploded for the Huskies a little later as the third quarter belonged to the Dawgs. Penix torched the Big 12 champion in Big 12/SEC territory for 430 yards and 2 TDs. He averaged 11.3 yards per attempt and commanded an offense that seemed to move at virtual will. The Texas Longhorns appeared completely unable to stop the Husky storm.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Previously, it was asked: what are the Huskies? The Huskies are a team that can dominate on the air, lean on rushing when they need to, even against Texas. For a game that was so reliant on passing, the Huskies were just under 3.5 yards per rush attempt, a solid feat. against this defense. And most of all, Huskies were underdogs in many situations that found a way to win in the toughest moments.

And that’s exactly what happened here.

The score was 34-21 in the fourth quarter with the Huskies having a chance to put the final nail in the coffin. Instead, the Huskies went four plays and fifteen yards giving Texas the easy chance to score. The Longhorns did giving it back to Washington to put the game away.

Out trotted the Huskies in their signature purple jerseys looking to put the game back up at two scores and do so while ticking the time. They did, more or less, Penix surging the Huskies to drain the clock, but stalling in the red zone — creating a smaller than needed 37-28 lead. Although an incomplete pass on 3rd down loomed large as UW looked to drain the clock. Husky nation breathed, but the familiar pains of the middle of this regular season came back. Can the Huskies do it despite leaving the door cracked open for their opponent?

37-31 rolled by after a Texas field goal and all UW had to do to run out the clock was get the first down. Not only did the Texas defensive line stop this from happening, but a third down rush that would’ve given the Longhorns less than 20 seconds to go 80+ yards was both stopped and resulted in Dillon Johnson re-aggravating his leg injury. Clearly screaming in pain, the refs stopped the clock giving Texas a free timeout and 50 seconds to work with instead.

UW punted and the Longhorns got to work hitting dimes that Ewers hadn’t found earlier. The same secondary that forced Ewers into an early 4/9 for 44 yards was letting him find his receivers, capitalized by a big play to Jaydon Blue for 16 yards.

The same team that was in pursuit of the National Championship with a 34-21 team advantage was now forced to suffer Texas getting four plays from the red zone in under 15 seconds.

The passing was better than Texas’. The pass protection was better than Texas’. Even the pass rush was better than Texas’ for a majority of the game. What did it was that the secondary in the end was also better than the Longhorns’ as Elijah Jackson made an acrobatic stop in the end zone with no seconds left on the clock.

With the game won, Trice was awarded the best defensive player award for his pursuit of the Quinn Ewers on the line and 2 sacks. Penix was the offensive player of the game.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Texas v Washington Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In the last year of the Pac-12, Washington will represent the West Coast in the National Championship game on Monday, January 8th at 5:45 PM. In a classic of cats vs dogs, old powers vs modern evolution, and B1G vs Pac-12, we finally get to see the sleeping giant that the Washington Huskies have awakened.

Where will you be as Penix, Odunze, Trice and more play their last ever college football game?