Caple: Takeaways from No. 7 UW Huskies’ epic win over rival Oregon

Oct 14, 2023, 6:29 PM | Updated: Oct 15, 2023, 11:22 am

UW Huskies...

Michael Penix Jr. of the UW Huskies celebrates a touchdown against Oregon on Oct. 14, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — In what will long be remembered among the greatest games in Husky Stadium history, the No. 7 UW Huskies prevailed 36-33 over the No. 8 Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon.

The next day: UW Huskies break into top 5 of AP poll after huge win over Oregon

Here’s what to know.

Penix’s Heisman moment

He was cramping throughout the fourth quarter and passed for fewer yards than his season average, but Michael Penix Jr. nevertheless made his case to be Heisman frontrunner with the touchdown pass that gave UW a late lead.

After completing a 35-yard throw to Ja’Lynn Polk — following an improbable fourth-down stop by UW’s defense — Penix checked into a fade to star receiver Rome Odunze.

For the second time in the game, Odunze had one-on-one coverage in the end zone, and went up over the defender to clutch Penix’s pass with two hands. The 18-yard touchdown gave UW its final lead with 1:42 to play, and capped Penix’s line at 22-for-37 for 302 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

“My guy vs their guy — I’m going to take my guy every time,” Penix said. “Rome shows each and every day why he’s the top receiver in the nation. He knew that I was going to trust him, and I gave him that fade route, and we made it happen. That’s stuff we do all the time in practice. Every game, y’all see it.”

Odunze, who said he played through a rib injury sustained while recovering an onside kick late in UW’s Sept. 30 win at Arizona, finished with eight catches for 128 yards and two scores to bring his league-leading receiving total to 736 yards.

Giles Jackson debuts

Washington’s senior receiver missed the team’s first five games due to an arm injury sustained this summer, and coaches have suggested it’s possible he might redshirt. He still might, but Jackson did make his 2023 debut Saturday, and he made an immediate impact. Penix found him for a 26-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Jackson also made clutch catches to convert a third and fourth down while totaling 58 yards on six receptions.

Jackson transferred from Michigan ahead of the 2021 season and finished fifth on the team in receiving last season while serving as the team’s primary kick returner. UW head coach Kalen DeBoer said he started practicing about three weeks ago.

“It was huge. It played a big role, especially early in the game,” DeBoer said of Jackson’s return. “It’s energy. He’s just such a team player, and our guys love him. It’s really special to see him come back and have the day he had today, for sure.”

Jackson’s contributions were especially important because star receiver Jalen McMillan, who missed each of the last two games with a lower-body injury, tweaked that injury early Saturday and sat out most of the game.

Key fourth downs

The outcome might have differed, had Oregon been successful on three particular fourth-down tries.

The first came on the final play of the first half, with the Ducks facing a fourth-and-goal from UW’s 3-yard line, trailing 22-18. Oregon quarterback Bo Nix rolled right and threw toward tailback Bucky Irving in the end zone, but UW safety Dom Hampton broke it up to keep the Ducks off the board.

UO coach Dan Lanning again chose to go for it with the Ducks facing fourth-and-three from UW’s 8-yard line, again driving toward the east end zone, with a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Nix threw incomplete to Troy Franklin and the Huskies took over, leading 29-18.

That play didn’t prove to be the turning point it seemed it might be, however, as UW followed with consecutive three-and-outs, and Oregon followed with consecutive touchdowns to take a 33-29 lead.

The Ducks had a chance to ice the game with another fourth-and-three in the fourth quarter, from UW’s 47-yard line, but Nix threw incomplete yet again. The Huskies scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later.

Washington also was flummoxed on a key fourth-down, as Tybo Rogers was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from UO’s 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. UW would have taken the lead with a touchdown.

Defensive questions, still

Just like in Eugene last season, Irving spent Saturday afternoon running through tackle attempts and piling up yards — 127 of them, to be precise, on 22 carries. The Ducks outgained the Huskies, 541 to 415, though UW did average more yards per play (6.8 to 6.4).

Nix completed 33 of 44 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns, and Franklin caught eight passes for 154 yards and a touchdown.

The Ducks did put together a promising drive on their final possession, moving it to UW’s 25-yard line with four seconds remaining before Camden Lewis’ 43-yard field-goal attempt missed just right as time expired.

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

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