Michael Penix Jr. shines as the Washington Huskies top Michigan State

Michael Penix Jr. shines as the Washington Huskies top Michigan State

The Washington Huskies began their Saturday unranked, staring down 11th-ranked Michigan State as the Spartans made the trip to the Pacific Northwest for a non-conference tilt.

Washington starts their Sunday wondering how high they can climb in the polls in the wake of their 39-28 victory.

A huge story in this game is the performance from transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Penix hit for four touchdown passes in the win over the Spartans, throwing for nearly 400 yards on the night.

It did not take him long to get going.

On the opening drive of the game, Washington faced a 2nd and 4 at their own 46-yard line, and Penix dialed up a vertical shot to Jalen McMillian along the left side of the field, showcasing precision touch in the downfield passing game:

Penix would cap off that drive with an eight-yard scoring strike to Ja’Lynn Polk, who had a huge night of his own:

Penix has to navigate two different underneath defenders on this quick glance route, and slices through the underneath coverage with his fastball to give Michigan State the early lead.

The Huskies led by 16-0 when Penix hit his second touchdown pass of the game, an absolute rocket shot to Wayne Taulapapa at the goalline:

When draft season gets going in full force, and you read or hear debates about the importance of arm strength, particularly velocity, at the quarterback position, think of this play. The velocity Penix dials up on this throw, combined with the pinpoint placement, gives Taulapapa a chance at finishing the play for a touchdown. The defender is in good position to prevent a play, but Penix and Taulapapa are able to connect thanks to the throw.

The first half was not done yet, and neither was Penix. The lefty passer connected with Polk with just seconds remaining on the clock, as the Huskies would take a 29-8 lead into the locker room for the halftime break:

From my vantage point, this might have been the best play from Penix on the night. Washington empties the backfield, using a 3×2 formation with the football on the right hashmark. Penix initially wants to target the quick glance route from the right slot receiver, but as he starts his throwing motion, he sees a flash of white, as the underneath linebacker slides into the throwing lane. Penix pulls the football down and then buys time, rolling to his left while keeping his eyes downfield. He spots Polk, who has broken back towards the outside in the scramble drill, and puts the throw on the money for the score.

Penix and Polk would connect for their third touchdown pass on Washington’s first possession of the second half:

This is both great design from the offense, and great execution from the quarterback. Penix begins the play under center and carries out a run fake before rolling to his right. Polk, however, is running a deep crossing route working from right-to-left, away from the flow of the play. Penix’s roll to the right draws the eyes of the defenders, and allows Polk to get behind the coverage. Penix then snaps his eyes and his feet back to the left and hits his receiver in stride, leading to the 53-yard touchdown.

Polk would finish the night with 6 receptions for 153 yards and the trio of touchdowns.

After the game, Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer sung his quarterback’s praises:

He’s seeing the field and the line is time, he isn’t taking sacks. Even when it does breakdown a bit and he got flushed, I have confidence in him taking care of the football. … He’s just so calm and collected, mentally has been in all these positions, been in so many close games over the years and big-time games that he just goes about his business and believes in himself. And he’s got a great supporting cast around him that are making plays for him too. That adds a lot to it.

We saw that first point on film, on the second touchdown to Polk, where Penix slid to his left to buy time, before finding Polk in the back of the end zone for the score. His favorite target on the night had his own dose of praise for the quarterback. “He works hard and he’s comfortable with us,” Polk said about his quarterback after the game. “He trusts us. He knows that we’re going to do everything that we can do in order to protect him and get that ball out of the air.”

The win saw Washington improve to 3-0 on the season, as their conference schedule is set to begin. The Huskies host Stanford next Saturday night. Beyond that, the win might also propel Penix into the draft quarterback discussion, as it is always evaluation season around these parts.

About the Author: camille r mercer

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