By Khalid Bennett, The Seattle Medium
In their quest for a PAC-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoffs, Washington would have to go through the two-time defending PAC-12 champions, Utah. The game was a matchup between the top offense in the conference and the top defensive unit statistically. Washington came into the game as the 5th ranked team in the nation, one spot away from the top 4 ranking needed to get into the playoff. The 9-0 Huskies were trying to win their first 10 games to start the season for only the second time in program history. Their 16-game winning streak is second in the nation behind back-to-back national champions Georgia.
The defensive battle that many had geared up for was not to be had in the first half. Both teams started hot offensively, with Michael Penix Jr. leading Washington for the first score on their second possession with a 2-yard touchdown run, putting the Huskies up 7-0.
“Obviously, I couldn’t do it without the great blocks on the outside. Dillon [Johnson] securing the edge for me… it was just a walk in,” said Penix on his run.
Utah answered back on the next drive to tie the ball game 7-7. Michael Penix Jr. knew he was going to be in a tough fight.
“We knew they were going to be physical, but it was just all about us going out there and executing,” said Penix following the game.
Washington and Utah went blow for blow for an entire half, trading touchdowns on 5 straight drives. A 34-yard touchdown catch by Rome Odunze was quickly countered by a 53-yard touchdown pass from Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes to Sione Vake. By halftime, it was Utah’s offense that was able to make the most plays and give their team a 28-24 lead.
In the second half, Washington’s defense shored up the mistakes that led to the Utes’ offensive explosion in the first half. Missed tackles that plagued the defense in the first half became sure tackles in the second half. The gusting winds may have been a factor for the Husky offense, which has been so good through the air this season. Dillon Johnson’s 256 yards last week against USC showed that Washington can be balanced, but big plays in the passing game have been the success of this team throughout the season. Penix was a lot more comfortable in the second half. He was able to find his All-American wide receiver Rome Odunze for a 33-yard touchdown to give the Huskies a 33-28 lead. The defense was able to come up big with what looked to be an interception for a touchdown. Upon further review, Washington linebacker Alphonso Tuputala dropped the ball for a fumble that was recovered by Utah at the Utah one-yard line.
“Unfortunately, you get excited, and that’s a great lesson to learn from. Fortunately, we won the game so you can learn from it… I’m glad the defense was able to go back out there and get some points,” said head coach Kalen DeBoer after the game.
The Husky defense was able to make up for the mishap on the very next play as Washington scored on a safety, making the score 35-28. That score would hold up as the final as the Huskies go 10-0 for the first time since ’91. Washington will put their 17-game winning streak on the line when they face 12th ranked Oregon State on the road in Corvallis next week.