Pennix Dazzles, Washington Holds On To Beat Texas 37-31 in Sugar Bowl

Published by: Bear Acuda

New Orleans, LA — Washington secured their first-ever entry into the College Football Playoff National Championship, narrowly defeating Texas 37-31 in a thrilling Sugar Bowl. The standout performance was delivered by Washington’s quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., who threw for an impressive 430 yards and two touchdowns, overshadowing Texas’ quarterback Quinn Ewers. This performance etched Penix’s name in college football history.

In a tense fourth quarter, Washington’s progress was momentarily halted due to an injury to their running back, Dillon Johnson. Following a Washington punt, Ewers of Texas linked up with receiver Jordan Whittington, setting the stage for a nail-biting finale in the red zone. However, a final throw by Ewers in the last second was unsuccessful, sparking celebrations for Washington.

Texas

Penix showcased his diverse skills, completing passes to six different receivers two of which contributed to over 100 yards each in Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk. He also displayed his mobility, rushing for 31 yards. Washington led from the start, with an early 7-0 lead and managed to maintain a comfortable margin for most of the second half, despite a late resurgence from Texas and Ewers.

Ewers had a challenging start, with only half of his initial 20 passes completed. However, a hard tackle by Washington’s Bralen Trice seemed to rejuvenate Ewers, who amassed 216 yards in the final quarter. Despite his efforts and a total of 318 yards with a touchdown, Texas couldn’t bridge the gap.

Penix’s 430 passing yards are the fourth highest in CFP history, following Mac Jones of Alabama in 2020 and two performances by Joe Burrow for LSU in 2019. Both Jones and Burrow subsequently won the national championship.

The Texas running duo, C.J. Baxter and Jaydon Blue, performed well, averaging 6.8 yards per carry, though they had limited opportunities with just 16 carries between them. Texas favored passing, with 35 attempts out of 63 plays.

Dillon Johnson of Washington, despite aggravating a foot injury, played through and contributed 49 yards on 21 carries and two tuggs. His robust running aiding in crucial conversions, but unfortunately could not finish the game. Washington’s receiving corps were also effective, with five players exceeding 48 yards each. Polk and Odunze (#6 overall prospect in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft) together amassed 247 yards.

Penix’s remarkable season earned him a runner-up spot in the Heisman Trophy race, and his influence was paramount in Washington’s landmark victory. He adeptly handled intense pressure, executed precise throws, mastered protection checks, and dismantled the Texas defense, accumulating 430 yards with 29 completions in 38 attempts.

Not enough good things can be said about the job Washington skipper (and recent recipient of the CFB “Head Coach of the Year” award) Kalen DeBoar has done. He has transformed the Huskies back into a national powerhouse damn near instantly. He and OC Ryan Grubb (who was pouring concrete and living in his sister’s laundry room before DeBoar pulled him out of obscurity) have one of the most innovative offenses in college football.

Texas

In the College Football Playoff, Ewers of Texas was anticipated to be a significant challenger to Penix. This expectation materialized in the game’s climactic moments as Ewers almost orchestrated a stunning comeback. However, when it mattered most, Penix was the pivotal player. Washington’s track record includes 10 straight wins in closely contested games. Amid potential upheaval, Penix has been the constant, guiding force for the team. Now, he prepares to demonstrate his skills in the ultimate college football arena, aiming for Washington’s first national title since 1991.

Texas, heading into the Sugar Bowl, drew optimism from their focused performances against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. However, this precision was lacking early in the game against Washington. Ewers struggled initially, completing just one of his first six passes to receivers and only 6 of 15 attempts overall. Texas’ coach Steve Sarkisian strayed from utilizing his running backs, despite their effective performance. A critical fumble later in the game shifted momentum, providing Washington a significant lead.

Texas had several chances to turn the game around. The final drive was particularly notable, with Ewers’ potential game-winning pass in the end zone being deflected. Additionally, Texas capitalized on a mishandled punt to score. Despite these opportunities, the team’s errors were ultimately detrimental. As Texas prepares to join the SEC in 2024, the program is in a strong position. However, for championship contention, greater discipline is essential.

Will Pennix shine against a vaunted Michigan defense the same way he lit-up Texas?

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