Hot Take: Why UW QB Michael Penix was so amazing in Sugar Bowl
Jan 2, 2024, 12:02 PM | Updated: 12:17 pm
(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
UW Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. seemed to convince a lot of people Monday night that he should have been the Heisman Trophy winner instead of the runner-up.
Penix led No. 2 Washington to a 37-31 win over No. 3 Texas in the Sugar Bowl, punching the Dawgs’ ticket to the College Football Playoff Championship against No. 1 Michigan next Monday, Jan. 8 in Houston. And when we say he led Washington, we mean it.
Penix was just about as good as a QB could possibly be, completing 29 of 38 passes against the Longhorns for 430 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.
Now, it’s not like Penix hasn’t had eye-popping numbers before. Monday’s game was his fourth just this season with at least 400 passing yards and his sixth with a rating of over 90 (it was a season-high 97.7 in the Sugar Bowl). But it was also his best performance since the Huskies’ sixth game, their 36-33 victory over Oregon where their momentum as a national championship contender really gained steam.
Something else may have happened in that game against the Ducks, though, as Curtis Rogers, producer of Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy, mentioned on Tuesday morning.
“What’s your theory on Penix?” asked co-host Stacy Rost to set up Rogers.
Responded Rogers: “That he’s finally healthy. That’s why he threw for 430 yards last night. My theory is he got hurt in the Oregon game, dealing with probably a rib injury to that midsection, and then gets the three weeks off in between the Pac-12 title game and the Sugar Bowl and he looks like his old self again. He was amazing last night.”
That sure could add up. Anyone who watched the first of two UW-Oregon meetings this year will remember when Penix took a hard shot in the second half and was clearly having a tough time breathing afterwards. It seemed like he was off the next week in a 15-7 win over Arizona State, too, which may have been the most frustrating game of 2023 for the Dawgs.
The high-flying Husky offense was still mostly good between the Oregon game and the Pac-12 Championship on Dec. 1, though maybe not running on all cylinders. In the Sugar Bowl, though, it was clear that Penix, his receivers and the UW offensive line were playing at their best after a month between contests.
Rost’s co-host, former WSU Cougars and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Michael Bumpus, shared his reaction to Rogers’ take.
“I definitely think he’s healthy. I think when you have three weeks off, your body heals and you do what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
Texas’ role in Penix’s big night
Bumpus, who now is a Pac-12 Network analyst and Seahawks Radio Network host, pointed another direction when discussing Penix’s big night.
“The way Texas played defense was disappointing to me, honestly, on the outside,” he said. “I’m not rooting against UW, I’m not rooting for UW, I’m just watching the game. And I’m watching Texas play against the University of Washington, and it’s third-and-6 and your corners are bailing. … They were so scared of the pass game, they gave up a lot of stuff in front of them. So I give Michael Penix his props, he did look healthier. But I’m also looking at the soft coverage from Texas and saying, ‘Y’all are that scared.’ … They did nothing to challenge these guys outside, which is crazy to me knowing that you got Penix and the best receiving corps in the country.”
The UW Huskies play the Michigan Wolverines at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 8 in the CFP National Championship. The ESPN Radio broadcast will air live on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and streaming on SeattleSports.com.
Catch Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, with podcasts after each show made available at 3 p.m. here.
More on Michael Penix and the UW Huskies
• Title game matches UW Huskies’ prolific Penix vs Michigan’s elite D
• Recap: Penix leads UW Huskies over Texas 37-31 in Sugar Bowl
• Details: UW Huskies topple Texas, punch ticket to national title game
• Damon Huard: UW Huskies QB Michael Penix ‘is ready for the NFL’