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  • Writer's pictureMark Schlabach

Michael Penix Jr. Leads Washington Huskies to Upset Victory in Sugar Bowl, Faces Michigan in National Championship

Two years ago, Michael Penix Jr. came to Seattle hoping to fix his career. He'll depart as a famous Huskies player.

In the biggest game of his life, Penix played very well. He completed 29 out of 38 passes for 430 yards as Washington mostly confused Texas in a close victory by nine points at the Allstate Sugar Bowl to progress into the College Football Playoff national championship match.

"[He did the] throws that we know he can do," Washington's coach Kalen DeBoer said. "With a strong defense like the one in Texas today, he used all his tricks and skills that make him unique. In my opinion, without these things I believe no player is better for college football."

When Jayden Daniels from LSU got the Heisman award and took his team to the playoffs, Penix had already become a famous part of UW's past. Now he has another chance that might make him one of school history's biggest heroes.

"I don't know if you can move the Heisman Trophy or how that works, but dude is super good in the country at doing it. I knew for a long time," said Washington receiver Rome Odunze who ended with six catches for 125 yards. "Sadly, I think the media and everyone outside hasn't noticed as much. He is special and he has pushed through hard times. Now, you see him shining on the biggest stage."

Penix showed his good deep-ball aim and fast release against the Longhorns right away. He threw a long 77-yard pass to Ja'Lynn Polk on his first try in the game and, like he had all season before. He found good chances for most of the rest of the match as well.

When trying to stop the Huskies' best three players - Odunze, McMillan and Polk - Penix made 16 out of 17 passes for a total distance of 305 yards. Texas couldn't stop the group of three best receivers in America. Penix broke the record for passing yards in a season. He's the first FBS quarterback to do this twice since Patrick Mahomes did it 2015-16.

Penix passed 7 times out of 10, throwing for a total of 257 yards when he threw more than if you took your last word. He was also good at running with the ball in it; on three carries, Penix advanced by getting along well to get two important advances.

When Penix came in second in the Heisman Trophy votes, he didn't worry about it. Instead, he told his teammates that winning games was more important than trophies and they still had lots to achieve.

"About the Heisman, it's over now. It doesn't matter," Penix said. "Now, man we want to win the big game. That's what I aimed for from the start."

The players on the team, however, were more blunt about the outcome and saw it as disrespectful to their whole group.

Odunze said, "We were very sad." "To be honest, that was probably one of the most upsetting things we've been through in this season. Thankfully, no, we haven't lost a match yet so it felt like losing."

In the two seasons that Penix has been part of the program, matching with coach Kalen DeBoer's arrival, Washington is 25-2 and they have got FBS's biggest winning streak to date which is until game number 21. It's a run that hasn't been without many near misses, and the win against Texas was no different.

Washington couldn't cheer until Texas missed scoring from 13 yards away three times in a row to finish the game.

A lot has been said about Washington's strange standing as a betting underdog in its last two games. First, they played against an Oregon team that the had lost to before. Then, on Monday night, they played against a team from the lower league which had lost before. In both matches, not only did the Huskies keep their winning streak going but they played really strong games that showed clearly who was better.

"We've definitely talked about it," said linebacker Carson Bruener from UW. "Pac-12 title, we were seen as the underdogs. We won the game. In this game, we were the underdogs and still managed to win. I won't be shocked if we win the national championship, even though we might not have a lot of support.

"We'll go outside and use it like a fire. We really enjoy it."

Michigan, the best ranked team that also beat No. Alabama in the other round, the Huskies will actually be underdogs again. They started as 4.5 points less likely to win, according to ESPN BET However using only most common 2000 words in English.

In 1991, Washington's way to the national title also went through Michigan. The Huskies won against the Wolverines 34-14 in the Rose Bowl. They went undefeated all year and ended at No rank. The coaches poll put Miami as No. 1 in the AP poll. Washington and Michigan have fought three times so far, with Michigan winning more often by getting a 3-1 lead. Even in the latest match of 2021, they won greatly with a score of 31 to just theirs at ten points less than that value.

The current Huskies know a lot about the '91 team.

"We often talk about the '91 team," Odunze said. "They had a similar season to us in 1990, like our last year. They didn't quite make the big national championship game and then they said [in 1991], 'Hungrier than ever.' That was their own hungry mindset for going after it all. And we have that same hunger-like feeling this year too.. We are so close

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