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Sports >  UW football

‘I’m so excited right now’: QB Michael Penix Jr. has sparkling UW Huskies debut

Sept. 4, 2022 Updated Sun., Sept. 4, 2022 at 5:07 p.m.

Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. rolls out of the pocket during the Spring Preview game on April 30 in Seattle.  (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. rolls out of the pocket during the Spring Preview game on April 30 in Seattle. (Jennifer Buchanan/Seattle Times)
By Shane Lantz Seattle Times

Michael Penix, Jr. has mastered Kalen DeBoer’s offense, that much is obvious.

On Saturday night, the new University of Washington quarterback made a sparkling Montlake debut, lighting up the Kent State defense for 345 passing yards on 26 completions, with four passing touchdowns in a season-opening 45-20 Huskies victory.

Penix, who threw for 4,197 yards and 29 touchdowns for Indiana over his past four injury-plagued seasons, looked right at home in his first game back with DeBoer, as the fifth-year junior lefty finished the night with a 67% completion rate while throwing passes to nine different receivers. He also rushed four times for 27 rushing yards.

“The offense that we have here is great,” Penix said. “Coach DeBoer and coach (Ryan) Grubb finds ways to get the ball around to everybody on the field. Like you saw, a lot of people had a lot of catches today, and it’s been great, man. I’m so excited right now.”

One particular point of pride for Penix was Kent State’s complete lack of sacks while he was in the game, as Penix didn’t spend a single moment on the ground.

“I’m doing real good, I didn’t get hit all day today,” Penix said. “The O-line played their tail off.”

Back when DeBoer and Penix were together at Indiana back in 2019, Penix set the program’s single-season completion percentage record with a mark of 68.8% and threw for 1,394 yards over six games before his season ended due to injury.

It’s been three years since they’ve shared a sideline, but DeBoer and Penix seemed to quickly slide back into their old ways.

Under Penix, the UW offense averaged seven yards per play. Last season, the Huskies averaged five. Penix also averaged 13.6 yards per completion against the Golden Flashes, and threw 39 total passes with zero interceptions.

Last year, Penix threw seven interceptions in five games played for Indiana, but DeBoer wasn’t worried coming into the new season. He knows what Penix is capable of, and his performance against Kent State is the Penix that DeBoer remembers well from their time together with the Hoosiers.

“For the first game here and a new place, and a lot of spotlight on him, and he’s obviously not just a quarterback but a new quarterback and people wondering what he’s going to bring, I thought he was just really calm and collected throughout the entire game,” DeBoer said. “He didn’t put us in any really tough spots, took care of the football, chose the times to run when he needed to extend plays.”

DeBoer smiled when talking about the play of his familiar signal-caller, praising him for his smart style of play and singling out one drive before halftime where Penix read through several defensive protections and stayed on his feet to keep a series alive.

“There are just some things that he saw, things that he heard, putting pieces together about what was said by their defense earlier in the drive,” DeBoer said. “Knowing where the pressure might be coming from or what the coverage might be. I’m just really proud and I think there was some savvy things that don’t even show up on the stat sheet.”

With the crowd cheering him on under the Husky Stadium lights, Penix delivered a level of quarterback play that the Huskies haven’t seen in several years, and finished the night with a quarterback rating of 174.8.

Last year, UW quarterbacks combined to throw 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. On Penix’s first night in the purple and gold, the Huskies hinted at an offense that could bring a lot more excitement than Husky fans saw last year.

As the Huskies walked off the field after the game, DeBoer and Penix left the field with their arms around each other’s shoulders. It’s a long way from Bloomington, Indiana, to Husky Stadium, but this first victory was one that was worth all the mileage.

“It’s just great to be able to go put out everything that we put in,” Penix said. “Coach DeBoer, he was just proud of me. Proud of the way I played, and he was just letting me know that and just telling me, we’ve got to get ready for next week and keep our heads forward.”

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