So, that was fun, huh?
Under the bright lights of Autzen Stadium and the watchful eyes of the nation, the Huskies delivered a resounding statement victory over their rivals to the south, taking down No. 6 Oregon 37-34 on Saturday night.
It had to feel satisfying for Husky fans to watch sixth-year kicker Peyton Henry drill the game-winning, 43-yard field goal, put his index finger to his lips and shush the Oregon crowd. Something about index fingers in Eugene …
The win not only pushed UW to 8-2 and within range of a Pac-12 championship opportunity, it also effectively sunk the Ducks’ national-title hopes.
First-year coach Kalen DeBoer earned his biggest win yet in his first rivalry game as the Huskies snapped a three-game losing streak against Oregon.
Let’s dive into three quick impressions from UW’s win.
Michael Penix Jr. delivers … again
What Michael Penix Jr. is doing this season at quarterback is storybook stuff. The Indiana transfer has been nearly immaculate this season, and more importantly, he’s made plays when the Huskies needed them the most.
It was apparent early that Penix was in for a big night, as with the Oregon crowd at a full lather on UW’s opening drive, the QB calmly stepped up and delivered on third-and-14 and again on third-and-10 en route to an opening Wayne Taulapapa TD.
Penix showed off his entire arsenal Saturday night, completing two touchdown passes of more than 60 yards and amassing more than 400 yards. He did have a hiccup that nearly cost UW the game, throwing an interception on the Oregon 1-yard line.
But he more than made up for it with his most impressive pass of the game late in the fourth. On third-and-7 with the Huskies needing a first down and a score to stay alive, Penix reared back and fired a missile to Taj Davis, who tiptoed the sidelines and into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown, tying the game at 34-34.
Penix is etching his name all over UW’s record books. The lefty moved up to second on UW’s single-season passing yard record list with 3,460 through 10 games, trailing only Cody Pickett’s 4,458 yards in 2002. And as the TV broadcast pointed out, he also has UW’s single-game passing record against Oregon, as his 408 yards Saturday smashed Damon Huard’s previous mark of 327 in 1995.
In a duel against Heisman hopeful Bo Nix, it was Penix who came away the hero on Saturday night, and it was a game that will live in Husky lore for years to come.
Defense still an issue
Turns out, the Huskies needed every last ounce of their historic offensive night.
The game started slowly, and the UW defense stood tall against Oregon’s attack, allowing just 10 first-half points and holding Nix to just 80 passing yards. But the dam broke after halftime. The Huskies allowed three touchdowns on as many drives in the third quarter, allowing Oregon to amass 245 yards of offense.
The Huskies consistently missed tackles in the open field, and the secondary got torched on multiple deep passes.
The only sack of the night was a massive one, as Bralen Trice and Jeremiah Martin combined to take Nix down as the Ducks tried to salvage a last-minute field goal drive to force overtime.
The Huskies scored 37 points against a stout Oregon defense. They could’ve — and should’ve — scored more.
Despite moving the ball effectively all night, the UW offense stubbed its toes at the most critical moments in the red zone. In the first half, UW failed to convert a pair of third-and-short attempts and were forced to settle for two Peyton Henry field goals.
But the biggest gaffe came at the start of the fourth quarter. The Huskies were set up with a first-and-goal at the Oregon 1-yard line, ready to take back the lead. Instead of pounding the rock, Penix rolled out of the pocket and ripped a pass toward the end zone that was tipped by a Duck defender and picked off. In a game of momentum swings, that was perhaps the biggest.
The Huskies weren’t alone in their red-zone woes, though, as Nix fumbled a snap on third-and-1 at UW’s 4-yard-line, which Alphonzo Tuputala scooped up to help the Huskies get out to an early 10-3 lead.
It ultimately ended up being enough to beat a top-6 team, but red-zone inefficiency nearly cost the Huskies.