An angsty, “yellowed-out” Oregon crowd was ready for the Washington football team at Autzen Stadium, to say the least. Exhibit A: The malicious assault of an inflatable husky before kickoff. Was the attack an attempt for the Ducks crowd to send a message to their rivals?
But needless to say, the Huskies (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) [CQ 3] didn’t receive this message, and instead, sent one of their own to the college football world, upsetting the Ducks (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12) by the final score of 37-34.
In perhaps the biggest win for UW since the 2018 Pac-12 Championship, Saturday evening was not only a huge boost for the football program and school, but also the community in and around Washington state.
Progressing through the 2022 season with initial highs from the Michigan State win and enduring paralyzing lows after suffering back-to-back losses to UCLA and Arizona State weeks later, No. 6 Oregon posed an unlikely opportunity for No. 25 Washington to reclaim its early season glory.
Here are the three takeaways from the historic win:
Nearly Perfect Penix Jr.
In the highly touted quarterback duel between junior Michael Penix Jr. and current Heisman candidate Bo Nix, the Washington transfer played up to the hype and put up stellar numbers.
Finishing with an astronomical 408 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, Penix Jr. confidently led the UW offense through the seemingly endless series of scoring changes and the emotional rollercoaster the second half presented.
When asked about head coach Kalen DeBoer’s faith in continuing to let him lead this group through the year, Penix Jr. expressed his gratitude.
“I thank [DeBoer] every single day,” Penix Jr. said. “So, just him trusting me, not worrying about my past with injuries and stuff, and trust that I could come out here and lead this team to great heights, I thank him all the time.”
Penix Jr.'s two stand-out plays were his touchdown passes, his first coming on 2nd and 11 with six minutes left in the third, when he threw a dime into the hands of redshirt freshman Ja'Lynn Polk for 76 yards. Not to mention, Oregon was called for roughing the passer on the same play.
But one mistake following the touchdown to Polk temporarily dimmed the quarterback’s flawless performance, as Penix Jr. made an out of character play that threatened to spoil the upset bid.
Starting back at their own 12-yard line, the Huskies charged down the field and found themselves on the opposing 1-yard line. Instead of choosing to run the ball with only one yard to go, UW elected to pass.
With eerily similar circumstances to the Seahawks infamous pass play at the end of Super Bowl 49, the Seattle fan base collectively held its breath as Penix Jr. rolled out to the right and threw the ball into three defenders. The pass was intercepted.
But with an entire quarter left to play, the team showed character in keeping morale and optimism through the remaining minutes. Penix Jr. credited his teammate senior Corey Luciano, in particular.
“He was trying to stay in my head, and I’m like, ‘I’m good,’ and [Corey] was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re gonna get it back,’” Penix Jr. said. “And once one player does it, it’s like a domino effect. Everybody just kept doing it, everybody was believing, and that’s what it was.”
His second highlight came at a crucial point with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, with UW trailing by only a touchdown.
On Washington’s own 38-yard line, just when you wouldn’t expect it, Penix Jr. found sophomore Taj Davis for a 62-yard strike down the left hand side to tie it, 34-34. Following the touchdown and a critical defensive stop, Penix Jr. went on to lead the Huskies for the game-deciding field goal.
DeBoer shared his thoughts about Penix Jr.'s perseverance and his maturity down the stretch, especially after throwing the crucial interception.
“I know he, probably more than anyone, wants to have that one back,” DeBoer said. “And to see him just do what he did on the next drive, I mean he’s done that all year. He can erase it, he can stay composed, he’s got this maturity, and the experiences he’s been through and the fight he has, it showed.”
Redemption For Peyton
In 2018, at this very field, senior Peyton Henry missed a game-deciding 37-yard field goal, as the Huskies eventually lost in overtime, 30-27. Four years later, Henry was given a chance to redeem himself. Safe to say, he followed through.
With Henry going three of three on the night, his longest being from 43 yards to decide the game, Penix Jr. went out of his way to credit the special teams crew for their contributions not only tonight, but through the season as a whole.
“Specialists, they don’t always get as much love as they should, but they are a big part of this team, a big part of every team,” Penix Jr. said. “And Peyton definitely showed up whenever we were counting on him.”
But even Penix Jr. himself didn’t know of the potential redemption arc until late in the game, which he jokingly admitted in the post-game interview.
“I didn’t know he missed it here four years ago, somebody was telling me this is a redemption field goal and I was like, ‘What does that mean?’” Penix Jr. said with a smile. “As long as he makes it, I’m good.”
In a separate interaction post-game, Henry concisely acknowledged the noisiness of the sold-out Oregon crowd and the team’s mentality through the madness.
“We weren’t going to let the crowd noise get to us,” Henry said. “We were just gonna come in, do our thing, and go from there.”
DeBoer shared his faith in his kicker to get the job done when the Huskies needed it the most, as Henry’s been perfect in extra point attempts, while tallying 12 of 14 field goals this season.
“It felt right, it felt like Peyton was gonna get this chance,” DeBoer said. “He’s been so good all year, so I’m proud of the way he just one kick after the other, came through, and that last one was as big as any.”
Defensive Ebb and Flows
For much of the evening, it seemed UW didn’t have an answer for Oregon’s run game, consistently missing first and second tackles after the initial contact. The lackluster tackling showed in the box score in giving up 312 rushing yards — the most by UW this season.
Oregon’s 18-play drive following the Penix Jr. interception was a telling series in particular, as Noah Whittington and Bucky Irving consecutively rushed for gains of five yards or more, moving down the field with ease.
But a crucial stop on UW’s own 8-yard line forced an Oregon field goal, giving the offense a chance with just under four minutes left. Following the quick equalizing touchdown, the defense needed to come up big.
Despite previous blunders, Penix Jr. and the team had faith.
“For us, we kept trust in the defense the whole time. We got guys walking up and down the whole time, cheering the defense up,” Penix Jr. said. “In particular, Luciano, just getting everybody up, ‘C’mon, man, we’re going to get a stop right here.’”
First, a costly slip by Whittington on fourth down brought the UW offense back on the field on Oregon’s 34-yard line, eventually setting up the winning field-goal. On the final drive, effective quarterback pressure resulted in a sack from sophomore Bralen Trice and senior Jeremiah Martin and an incomplete Hail Mary attempt to end the game.
Having endured the ups and downs through the last few years in a more holistic approach, DeBoer emphasized the care he has for this group through all they’ve been through.
“It’s about these guys in the locker room and just everything that they’ve been through the last couple years,” DeBoer said. “They deserve it, because they keep fighting, they keep playing, keep working, and stick together.”
But if there was any doubt about UW being a desirable landing strip for elite football talent, take it straight from the source.
“I’m definitely in the right place,” Penix Jr. said. “I’m glad I chose here and I look forward to continuing making memories here.”
UW faces Colorado for its final home game on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.
Reach reporter John Rudnicki email@example.com. Twitter: @johnrudnicki02
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This article is incredible. Great writing, accurate gameplay and a heck of a lot of character. Will be reading more of the daily for sure, THANKS JOHM
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