CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple’s UW Huskies takeaways after 56-19 victory over Boise State

Sep 2, 2023, 5:57 PM

UW Huskies...

Rome Odunze of the Washington Huskies scores a touchdown against Boise State on Sept. 2, 2023. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies opened the 2023 season with a 56-19 victory over Boise State on Saturday, extending their winning streak to eight games dating to last season.

Penix throws 5 TDs as No. 10 UW Huskies overwhelm Boise State 56-19

Here are three takeaways from UW’s dominant win.

Michael Penix Jr. = still good

It took a quarter, but Washington’s star quarterback eventually showed why he’s widely considered a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Consider what Penix did in Saturday’s second quarter alone: 10-for-16, 180 yards, four touchdowns.

His final numbers: 29-for-40, 450 yards, five touchdowns.

The sixth-year senior made it look easy, standing in a mostly clean pocket and delivering on-target throws to open receivers. He was sacked just once, on Washington’s first possession, a rare three-and-out indicative of a sluggish first quarter. Boise State led, 6-0, before Penix unleashed a torrent of chunk plays in the second quarter.

It started with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jalen McMillan. Penix later added a 38-yard score to McMillan, and a 44-yard score to Ja’Lynn Polk, and a 20-yard touchdown to tight end Jack Westover. HIs fifth touchdown pass, on UW’s first possession of the third quarter, was a 5-yard fade to receiver Rome Odunze.

“It was rough at first,” Penix said, “but for us to be able to bounce back and get back in our groove, it felt good.”

There were other highlights, too, such as a perfectly-placed 50-yard completion to Polk up the left sideline one play before Odunze’s touchdown … and a 29-yard gain to Odunze fit perfectly between a linebacker and defensive back that exemplified Penix’s ability to layer throws.

The quarterback finished his day by standing on the sideline and watching backup Dylan Morris connect with Cal Poly transfer tight end Josh Cuevas for a 31-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“We did a good job finding matchups,” UW coach Kalen DeBoer said. “Mike’s just so well versed — he can make little calls and little checks and go through a progression, and based on what he sees defensively, find the guy he needs to pretty quickly.”

Receivers as advertised

Which Huskies receiver had the best game?

Was it Odunze, who led the team with 132 yards on seven receptions, including a touchdown?

Was it Polk, who had the longest play of the day and totaled his 101 yards on three catches, also including a touchdown?

Or was it McMillan, who came up five yards shy of 100 but led the team with eight receptions, caught two touchdown passes, rushed for a 19-yard touchdown out of the wildcat and also completed a 9-yard pass on a trick play?

“I couldn’t be more proud of J-Mac,” coach Kalen DeBoer said. “He’s maybe one of the biggest gym rats on our football team. He’s always catching JUGS machines, footballs, tennis balls, watching film. All that work paid off today.”

Last year, Odunze and McMillan became the first duo in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark in the same season. Both are on pace to do it again after Week 1.

“They can have me block, they can have me be a fullback,” McMillan said of his loaded stat sheet. “I’ll do whatever it takes for the team to win.

Big plays, but better defense

Twice, Boise State gashed Washington’s defense for big gains on screen plays — a 48-yarder in the second quarter, and a 50-yard touchdown to tailback Ashton Jeanty in the third quarter. And Broncos quarterback Taylen Green also connected with receiver Stefan Cobbs for a 40-yard gain in the first half.

Otherwise, UW’s defense stiffened up, allowing only a single touchdown in the second half while intercepting Green twice.

Third-year sophomore cornerback Davon Banks came off the bench to contribute greatly to Washington’s efforts, totaling four pass breakups — including a couple on crucial third-down plays.

Fourth-year sophomore cornerback Elijah Jackson won the starting job opposite Oklahoma State transfer Jabbar Muhammad coming out of camp, but Banks appears to be pushing for playing time.

“He’s got quickness, and he’s got a lot of twitch,” DeBoer said of Banks, who missed spring practices while recovering from injury. “He’s got that mindset that you want for a corner. It was really good to see (him), along with a lot of the other guys, do some good things — play aggressively, play confidently, showed some physicality in there and some swagger.”

Run game inconsistent

The one downside to Washington’s offensive outburst: it came almost exclusively through the air, as the Huskies rushed for just 78 yards on 19 carries. Fourth-year sophomore tailback Will Nixon took his six carries for 48 yards with a long of 21, but the Huskies otherwise struggled to establish their ground game.

“It’s probably where it was at the beginning of last year a little bit,” DeBoer said. “If there’s things to just look at, that you want to be better at, it would be running the football better, more consistently.”

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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