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University of Washington Huskies Football

Commentary: Huskies may make things too exciting, but they’re not winning by accident

Washington Huskies’ Michael Penix Jr., left, and Rome Odunze celebrate their touchdown against the Utah Utes on Sunday at Husky Stadium in Seattle.  (Getty Images)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – They may not be America’s team, but they are America’s most entertaining.

The Huskies don’t do boat races. They’d prefer to keep hearts racing.

Saturday, No. 5 Washington pulled out another chaotic victory when it beat 18th-ranked Utah 35-28. And if you’re wondering if this is sustainable, I’d refer you to Oct. 8, 2022 – the last time UW lost.

For the sixth straight game, the Huskies (10-0, 7-0 Pac 12) had fans fretting that their perfect season would come to an end. It doesn’t seem to matter who they line up against, either, as lowly Arizona State or Stanford play them just as tight as the conference heavyweights.

But I’d shelve any talk that the Dawgs are overrated or on the brink of an impolite awakening. When you come out on top 17 times in a row, it’s safe to call them real.

“It would be great to win by 40, but it’s football, you got adversity and you have great teams you’re playing against and it’s not always going to be like that,” said Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who finished 24 of 42 for 332 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. “We know that we have what it takes to finish a game and come out with a win no matter what.”

At halftime Saturday, the Huskies had the look of a team playing on its undefeated expiration date. The Utes led 28-24 and faced almost zero resistance from the Huskies’ defense.

Quarterback Bryson Barns’ career-high for passing yards coming into the game was 235. Through two quarters Saturday, he had 238.

This has been a theme for Washington throughout the season. The “D” gets lit up by just about any opponent – they entered the game 102nd in the nation in total defense – then makes a magical stop or two (or three against Oregon) to pull out the win.

The magic Saturday was spread out over the course of the third and fourth quarters. Utah had 306 yards in the first half Saturday, and just 76 in the second.

Washington cornerback Jabbar Muhammad praised defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell’s halftime adjustments and said the Huskies essentially went back to basics. In doing so, they forced three second-half punts, collected two interceptions and limited a team that led the nation in time of possession to 25 minutes with the football.

That was enough for Penix and an offense that came into the game fourth in the country in yards per game and first in plays over 15 yards. The result was 35 points and 457 yards against a Utes team that led the Pac-12 in total defense.

It’s never a slow burn when going against the Huskies. It’s a raid led by the Heisman favorite of a quarterback launching some of the most picturesque passes you’ll see in college football. It doesn’t hurt to have a receiver such as Rome Odunze, who amassed 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just three catches Saturday. But there is no shortage of targets on Montlake, as the Huskies have five pass-catchers with at least 20 receptions.

It’s not just the offensive firepower that makes this team so dang fun. It’s that every game seems to have a remember-for-the-rest-of-the-season moment.

The three-point win over Oregon featured a trio of fourth-down stops and a Ducks missed field goal in the final seconds. The eight-point win over Arizona State had a 90-yard pick six from Mishael Powell midway through the fourth quarter.

Against Stanford it was a dropped pass that would have extended a fourth-quarter drive by the Cardinal, who trailed by two points at the time. And Saturday, it was UW linebacker Alphonozo Tuputala dropping the ball one yard shy of the end zone in what would have been a pick-six.

That last one didn’t end up costing the Huskies who forced a safety on the next play. But it was memorable. Just about every one of these games is.

Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer said Saturday that he would prefer that his team make it a little easier on itself sometimes. He added that UW has exerted more control than some of the close scores would indicate.

Maybe. It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? The Huskies keep winning, and if they come out on top in one of their next two games and capture the Pac-12 title, they’ll likely be in the College Football Playoff.

That’s good for the program and good for America. At this point, which team would rather watch?