Huskies reign over Ducks in Pac-12 title game

Oops! He did it again. For the second time during the 2023 college football season, Michael Penix Jr. operated as the kyropinite to the Oregon Ducks. For the second time this season, the University of Washington would draw on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass thrown by Penix to upend the Ducks. 

In the first meeting this season between the Huskies and Ducks, Penix completed a touchdown pass late in the game to help Washington beat Oregon. Penix’s magic haunted the Ducks once again. This time, Penix did his thing during the Pac-12 Conference Championship

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix completed 21 of 34 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns against the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 Conference Championship on Dec. 2, 2023. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

With less than three minutes left in the game, Penix hit Quentin Moore for a 2-yard touchdown throw to give Washington a 34-24 cushion. The Huskies eventually held off the Ducks to win the game, 34-31. It was a maestro performance by Penix in leading the Huskies to their 13th win of the season. 

Washington finished the regular season with a perfect 13-0 record and secured a spot in the College Football Playoff.  

“Proud of the way we stepped up again, physicality both sides of the ball,” Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer said after the game. “Ran the football. Offense and Michael, probably back in sync. A lot of that has to do with just getting the guys and the crew all back together again. Had a couple weeks now where J Macs joined the mix. You can see that timing continue to develop, the rhythm in practice growing. They just found ways to make those big plays.”

Penix and the Washington offense made plenty of big plays. For the game, the Huskies dominated on the offensive end, accounting for 481 yards in total offense. Penix as well as running back Dillon Johnson had a big hand in that.  

Penix completed 27 of the 39 passes he attempted for 319 yards and a touchdown. That pass, a 2-yard scoring toss to Quentin Moore with 2:44 left in the game, put the icing on the cake for the Huskies. 

Oregon got a touchdown late in the game to make it close, but the Penix-to-Moore connection clinched the victory for Washington. The Penix touchdown was big in more ways than one. After going into halftime with a lead of 20-3, Washington scored zero points in the third quarter, allowing Oregon to take the lead of the game.    

Penix and the Huskies outscored Oregon 14-7 in the fourth quarter. So what exactly did he tell his teammates in between the third and fourth quarters? 

“Yeah, just keep believing, keep fighting. The game, obviously wasn’t over,” Penix said. “We just got to continue to stay 1-0. We’ve been in this position before where it gets tight at the end. For us, it was about trusting in each other. I was telling them just look at the guy next to you, trust that he’s going to do his job to help us win this game. That’s what it’s all about. Loving each other, trusting each other when those moments get big, those moments seem to get tough, having that belief to know we’ll be able to make it happen.”

Michael Penix and the Huskies were staring down national championship possibilities, a chance to win the conference title, trying to keep an unbeaten season intact, and adding more Heisman Trophy votes to his name when they entered this game. 

Penix and the Huskies were successful in checking all the boxes against Oregon. After leading Washington to a 13-0 regular season mark, becoming a Pac-12 Conference champion, and being considered a frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy, Penix was asked what it felt like to hear his teammates chanting for the best player in college football honor to go to their quarterback.      

“It’s just a blessing to be able to be in that talk,” Penix said. “For me, it was always the main thing was to win. To be able to do that today on a stage like this, it’s incredible. I’m going to always savor this moment. I’m just super excited. Right now I’m just really living in this moment. 

“Whatever happens come next weekend is going to happen. It’s already written. Obviously, I couldn’t do it without the guys around me. I got to thank my offensive line for all the work that they put in each and every day to allow me to stay clean on Saturdays, or today on Friday. I’m just super blessed for the guys I have around me.”

Top Image Caption: Michael Penix Jr. (9) of the Washington Huskies completed 27 of 39 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown to lead his team to a 34-31 win against Oregon and the 2023 Pac-12 Conference Championship. Photo credit: Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

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