And then, there was one.
The journey of college football ended tonight with the CFP National Championship in Houston, Texas and much to everyone’s expectations fireworks were ablaze. #1 Michigan and #2 Washington shocked the world at the end of eras and beginning of dynasties.
Immediately, right off the bat Michigan set the tone pressing charges against Washington’s 14-0 run. Michigan did everything they were supposed to, run that ball. A mistake Texas made was one the intellect of Michigan was not going to. They dedicated to the run swiftly and honestly, it worked a collection of several yard gains coupled with the infrequent pass benefiting the Wolverines.
A sack from Ulumoo Ale made Husky nation hopeful once more, but the next play things started to fall apart. Donovan Edwards was stuffed at the line for a likely third-and-long, however, once he bounced out, he was untouchable. 41 yards later and an extra point, the score was 7-0.
Then, for the last time this season, Michael Penix Jr. & co. marched onto the field the familiar breeze of Husky confidence contaminating the air. Right away after a six yard rush from Dillon Johnson, Penix found his man Jalen McMillan for an 11-yard pickup. The Washington QB that placed 2nd overall in the Heisman race connected two more times, one to Tybo Rogers, a tailback that hasn’t seen the field as often as his athletic ability suggests.
With the chains moving, it was the noise of the crowd that slowed them down and they were limited to three points.
Now, it’s 7-3 and the jolt of uneasiness was returning. Michigan so easily ran the ball the first drive that it was entirely possible that they’d do it again. And that they did. In fact McCarthy went 1-2 for 37 yards, but it was another 40+ rush that iced Washington in the first quarter. Without even blinking the score was suddenly 14-3 and the first time this season, the Huskies were down by double digits. Somehow, it was still the first quarter and Michigan surpassed 100 yards rushing.
The Huskies didn’t do much to make up ground and were suddenly down by 14 with a majority of the second quarter left to play. Two things showed up early and stayed consistent. In the juggernaut of the Husky offense that DeBoer and Grubb created, signs of slow down were apparent and it was the defensive scheme that got to Penix an unbelievable amount of times. The unsung hero of pass blocking for the Huskies was Dillon Johnson and were constant injuries too much for him to continue making a difference?
The other issue that was apparent was that the chemistry of the receiving corps wasn’t there and Penix had to overcompensate in the passing game since Johnson wasn’t 100% against one of the best defensive lines of recent memory. The balls were overthrown, receivers not running the right routes and they weren’t attacking the balls as they used to.
For that, Washington stalled on several occasions closing out the half down 10-17 and getting thoroughly outplayed. The physicality that beat Oregon on the LOS was almost completely given to Michigan for the duration of the game.
With the game within reach, an easy chance to tie it coming out of halftime Penix threw a quick interception targeting his man on the sideline but facing too much pressure. The high hopes Husky nation had were quickly fading, the solution to have to keep passing.
Surprisingly, the defense shut down Michigan fairly quickly limiting them to a field goal on an already short field. Three points were given up and the ball placed right back in Penix’s hands. What was going on with this offense and how quickly can UW recover? History suggested soon. But that’s not what happened. In fact, not only did Washington fail to get a touchdown to bring the game closer, but they didn’t score a touchdown for the remainder of the game.
And that brings us to the now. The #2 Washington Huskies fell to #1 Michigan Wolverines 34-13, 27-13 before the garbage time touchdown. Penix couldn’t connect with McMillan and Polk on several occasions and was tossed around with a defensive front seven that blitzed random holes.
Penix finished with two interceptions, the last of which came while he was cradling his side from being hit and attempting to pull the team out. That’s where the Huskies fell short unfortunately, the remarkable athlete that Penix was was the offense. There weren’t answers as blitzes came and balls were missed and Johnson, albeit injured, was non existent for 33 yards.
It became one dimensional.
Penix’s complete stat line involved 255 yards and a touchdown, the miscues piling on as the game became more urgent. And that’s just how it was. the defense held on for as long as they could and the offense couldn’t cash in on the opportunities. When big plays were made, a long bomb to Odunze that would’ve positioned UW to tie the game at 20 nullified by a penalty, the yellow flag was an oft sight.
The Huskies will finish 2023-24 as the second best in the nation. For the journey it was, it is now over until August. 2023 Washington is responsible for the most wins in school history, the highest placing Heisman, the best Husky receiver ever and the first National Championship appearance in thirty-two years.
Can I get a hell yeah? Penix & co, signing off for the 2023-24 season.
A note from the writer: It has been so much fun writing recaps this year and hopefully with your support I can return to the fold for next season. Thank you for making my first season with you guys a blessing and this is one for UW Dawg Pound.