Although quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has rightfully garnered a lot of attention this season, the frequently criticized UW Huskies defense was the real star of the show in the last 30 minutes on Saturday, as they defeated Washington 10-0 for just the second time in school history.
Washington defeated No. 13 Utah 35-28 after Penix scored two touchdowns passing and another running. In the second half, Washington’s pitching staff shut out the opposition.
The Huskies (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12, No. 5 CFP) continued to be in the conversation for the College Football Playoffs while extending the second-longest active win run in the country to 17 games.
The Huskies shared the national championship with Miami in 1991, the only other year they finished at 10-0.
“It’s all the work we’ve put in. We’re right where we saw ourselves at. We just have to continue to keep working,” Penix said. “We’ve got two more in the regular season to try and finish off with two more wins, go 12-0, and it’s right there in front of us.”
It was a windy day on Lake Washington Beach, and Penix was not feeling well. However, he produced enough huge plays in the passing game to let Washington’s defense, which had struggled to contain the Utes in the first half, make crucial adjustments at halftime.
At one point in the first half, Washington saw Utah score touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. Utah had six possessions and only once crossed midfield in the second half.
“We know we we didn’t come out and play our best brand of football in the first half. But that’s how it should be every game. We should come out and play like we did in the second half every game,” Washington cornerback Jabbar Muhammad said.
Penix ran for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter and connected with Rome Odunze on both of his touchdown passes.
Penix completed 24 passes out of 42 for 332 yards. Dillon Johnson ran for 104 yards a week after scoring 256 yards against Southern California, and Odunze had three receptions for 111 yards.
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be the most physical team was going to win this game and we were the most physical team,” Johnson said.
Penix’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Odunze gave Washington a 33-28 lead in the third quarter. It looked as though Washington would take a larger lead, but linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala returned an interception 76 yards and dropped the ball at the 1-yard line on his way to the goal zone.
After gaining a safety on the subsequent play, Washington led 35–28 at the half.
“It’s a great lesson to learn from,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “Fortunately, we win the football game so we can learn from that.”
With 1:38 remaining, Utah’s Connor O’Toole stopped Grady Gross’ 32-yard field goal attempt, giving Washington a chance to increase their advantage to ten points. Utah’s quarterback, Bryson Barnes, was intercepted on a desperate throw close to midfield on fourth-and-10 after the team was unable to accomplish much with the block.
“We couldn’t get that spark going,” Barnes said.
With 13 of 17 passes for 238 yards and touchdown touchdowns of 6 yards to Miki Suguturaga and 53 yards to Sinoe Vaki on a screen pass, Barnes was the more effective quarterback in the first half. Late in the first half, Barnes connected with DeVaughn Vele for 68 yards, which set up Ja’Quinden Jackson for his second touchdown run. Jackson’s score gave Utah (7-3, 4-3, No. 18 CFP) a 28-24 lead at the break.
However, in the second half, Utah’s offense vanished as Washington increased its pressure on Barnes. In the second half, the Utes managed just 76 yards and four first downs while Barnes ended 17 of 30 for 267 yards.
“We just couldn’t get in sync in that second half,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We just couldn’t get in a rhythm; it was completely different than the first half.”