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Sports >  UW football

UW football makes nonconference statement in 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State

Sept. 17, 2022 Updated Sat., Sept. 17, 2022 at 9 p.m.

By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Even when Kalen DeBoer is wrong, he’s right.

With 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the first quarter Saturday and the Huskies holding an early 7-0 lead, Washington went for it on fourth-and-goal from Michigan State’s 1-yard line. Junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. took the snap and darted left, on what appeared to be an option play.

He was swallowed by Spartans defensive end Khris Bogle for a 1-yard loss.

In a different season, with a different coach, and a different quarterback, that may have been the difference. A team that hadn’t beaten a ranked nonconference opponent inside Husky Stadium since No. 11 Michigan in 2001 – albeit with precious few opportunities – may have played like it. The Huskies could have cratered on ABC, faltering for all the world to see.

Instead, they dominated – delivering a 39-28 outcome, their biggest nonconference win in ages.

Michigan State running back Jarek Broussard – a Colorado transfer – was stopped for a safety on the next play.

Then Penix went back to work.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound transfer quarterback – who completed 72.5% of his passes against the Spartans, with 606 yards and six interceptions, in two games while at Indiana – didn’t disappoint on Saturday.

In his third start in Seattle, Penix completed 24 of 40 passes (60%) for 397 yards and four touchdowns. He piled up a collection of impressive completions – a 47-yard floater to wide receiver Jalen McMillan on the opening drive, a 19-yard back-shoulder sizzler to running back Wayne Taulapapa for a 19-yard score, and a 17-yard touchdown rolling to his left to Ja’Lynn Polk to close the half with a 29-8 lead.

His coaches said this week that Penix would not be overwhelmed.

Instead, he was overwhelming.

The same could be said of a Husky offense that outgained the Spartans 322-90 in an efficient first half. Polk had six receptions for 153 yards and became the first Washington player to catch three touchdowns in a game since Dante Pettis against Oregon State in 2017. McMillan added seven catches for 94 yards, lunging for a 7-yarder in the first quarter on fourth-and-5. Running backs Taulapapa and Cameron Davis also scored.

UW’s offensive success against Kent State and Portland State – two inarguably inferior nonconference opponents – is easily explained .

Not against Michigan State, a defense that led the nation with 12 sacks in convincing wins over Akron and Western Michigan. The Spartans did not record a sack against a Husky offensive line still missing injured All-Pac-12 left tackle Jaxson Kirkland.

It’s also a Michigan State defense that ranked dead last nationally in pass defense in 2021, surrendering 324.8 yards per game.

Despite a late push that gave Husky fans a brief scare, the Spartans’ problems have not been solved.

The same can’t be said of a Husky offense that has been reignited under DeBoer, offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and Penix – off-season additions that have paid immediate dividends.

Early in the fourth quarter, DeBoer again opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. And again, Penix was stoned for a turnover on downs.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne nearly stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety, then threw an interception to cornerback Julius Irvin on the next play.

DeBoer did just about everything right on Saturday.

And even when he didn’t, he did.

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