NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. passed for 430 yards and two touchdowns, and Washington held off Texas 37-31 in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game, earning both the sixth-year quarterback with two surgically repaired knees and the beleaguered Pac-12 one more game this season.
The second-ranked Huskies (14-0) will face No. 1 Michigan next Monday night in Houston, looking for their first national championship since 1991 and the Pac-12’s first since Southern California in 2004. Washington is one of 10 schools fleeing the Pac-12 for other Power Five conferences next year, with the Huskies headed to join Michigan in the Big Ten.
But first, the final season of the four-team playoff before expansion to 12 in 2024 comes down to a Pac-12-Big Ten matchup, just like the first when Ohio State beat Oregon.
No. 3 Texas (12-2) had four shots at the end zone after getting to the UW 12 with 15 seconds left, but Quinn Ewers missed on the last three. The final throw was a fade to a well-covered Adonai Mitchell that sailed long.
In Texas’ first CFP appearance and final football game as a member of the Big 12 before it goes to the Southeastern Conference, Ewers passed for 318 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn’t enough against Penix and his array of talented receivers.
Penix spent his first four college seasons at Indiana, suffering three season-ending injuries. When his former offensive coordinator at Indiana, Kalen DeBoer, took over at Washington, Penix didn’t think twice before moving to Seattle.
The left-hander stayed healthy and blossomed into a star, the Heisman Trophy runner-up this year, and now has a chance to win a national championship after another brilliant performance.
Penix went 29 for 38 with no turnovers. He completed 12 straight at one point, the longest on-target streak in the CFP’s 10-year history.
And he did it attacking down field as usual. He completed six passes of at least 20 yards, connecting with Rome Odunze six times for 125 yards and Ja’Lynn Polk five times for 122.
It was in some ways a perfect CFP semifinal for the last season before massive changes in college football: two teams switching conferences next season, led by star quarterbacks who transferred in.
A wild first half included a 77-yard connection with Polk on Penix’s second pass of the game, defensive tackle Byron Murphy II plunging into the end zone for a 1-yard TD run for Texas, a Penix-to-Polk TD pass where the receiver tipped the ball to himself and the Longhorns capping the second quarter with a long touchdown drive to tie it at 21-all at the intermission.
There was a fourth-and-1 stop by Texas of Washington deep in Longhorns territory, which didn’t deter DeBoer from going for a fourth-and-1 at his own UW 33, and converting.