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What They Said: UW QB Michael Penix Jr. in-studio at Seattle Sports

Dec 13, 2023, 4:01 PM | Updated: 4:05 pm

The No. 2-ranked UW Huskies enter the College Football Playoff with one of the nation’s best players at the most important position in football.

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Michael Penix Jr., Washington’s star quarterback and the runner-up for this year’s Heisman Memorial Trophy, joined Wyman and Bob on Wednesday as part of Seattle Sports’ and KIRO Newsradio’s annual Holiday Magic thanks to Montlake Futures.

Things have been “real crazy” of late, Penix said, especially after spending last weekend in New York City for the Heisman ceremony.

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“But I’m just super excited and just blessed for all the opportunities that’s presented itself to me,” he said. “I’ve just been soaking it all in. I wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else. I’m just happy and just glad to be a Husky and man, it’s been pretty busy. But not too much. Not too much.”

Penix caught a lot of eyes at the ceremony for his purple suit.

The attention wasn’t necessarily for the suit’s color, but because inside, Penix had the names of all his UW teammates and coaches.

“Just to show my support to them because I know that obviously I couldn’t be in a position without those guys,” Penix said of the suit. “… I was just trying to find a way to highlight others around me and I felt like that was definitely the perfect thing.”

Prepping for Texas

The Huskies’ next game isn’t for another few weeks.

That game is the Sugar Bowl against No. 3 Texas. The winner will face the winner of Michigan vs. Alabama for the National Championship.

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So what’s the preparation been like?

“We’ve been practicing. Had a couple of workouts, a couple of practices so far. We’re gonna get a little time time off for the holidays because once Christmas time comes around, we’ll be working and we won’t really be able to be around our family,” Penix said. “But it’s been great. Just diving in on the film on them, those guys, that’s a very good team over there and obviously they’re in the College Football Playoff for a reason. We know that we have what it takes, so we’re just gonna go out there and execute and just play our football. But we’ve definitely been doing a lot of studying and trying to find ways to win the football game.”

Close wins

The Huskies are a perfect 13-0, and getting to that point has hardly been easy.

Of Washington’s last nine wins, seven were by one score and just one saw the Huskies win by double digits.

Where does UW’s ability to win those close games come from?

“It all started before the season in our offseason workouts and stuff like that,” Penix said. “We always did extra after our running and conditioning and stuff like that. And coach (Ron McKeefery), our strength coach, he’s always like, ‘This is the part that nobody else is doing’ to give us what we need to be able to come out on top of those close games and stuff like that. It just builds character and it just shows our team’s will to win. We showed it plenty of weeks.”

That being said, winning close isn’t what the Huskies are trying to do week to week.

“It’s not like I’m gonna sit up here and praise it because we don’t always want to be in those close games,” he said. “But for us, it’s always just doing whatever it takes, and that’s what it’s been about all season, and just this team has been doing a remarkable job with that.”

Connection with Odunze

Penix led the nation in passing yards for the second year in a row this season, and having an All-American receiver certainly made that more feasible.

Penix’s top target this year has been Rome Odunze, who had 81 receptions for 1,428 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns. Odunze also rushed twice for 37 yards and a touchdown.

How did that chemistry develop?

“I’m not gonna sit here and say it’s been like that since Day 1 because obviously you have to build that trust and that confidence within each other as time goes on,” Penix said. “The biggest thing about it was when I first got here, my first week here, we were just doing offseason workouts — so it was just training, lifting weights and running at that time — but just having him and the rest of the receivers coming up to me, like, ‘Hey, we want to get some throws in build that chemistry, find ways to get better,’ it just showed the character that I had around me and I knew that we were gonna be able to do special things.”

Part of why Penix trusts Odunze so much, he said, is because he knows Odunze is going to give 100% on ever play.

“I don’t have to worry about him taking the rep off, and I feel like that’s definitely what it comes from because once you start getting people taking reps off and not always giving that 100% and being that same guy every day, that’s when things become inconsistent,” he said. “But for us, it has been very consistent because he’s been one of those guys that’s always going to be where I need him.”

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What They Said: UW QB Michael Penix Jr. in-studio at Seattle Sports