PULLMAN – After years of Washington’s defense leading the charge in the Apple Cup the tides have turned under first-year head coach Kalen DeBoer.
UW and Washington State combined for 55 points and 630 yards of total offense Saturday in Pullman. The second half proved to be much of the same, at least for the Huskies.
On the first play of the third quarter Michael Penix Jr. uncorked a deep shot to sophomore receiver Jalen McMillan, who took it the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown.
The score put McMillan over 1,000 yards on the season, a mere quarter after his classmate Rome Odunze eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. The duo is the first two 1,000-yard receivers in school history in the same season.
“They’re a 1-2 punch, and I don’t know who’s the two and who’s the one,” DeBoer said with a chuckle after the game.
“They’re special. They set out at the beginning of, not just the season, but the beginning of the year to be the best that is out there. They gotta be one of the best combos in the country. They just ever game come ready to go.”
DeBoer noted that in order for both receivers – or any for that matter – to have success it first starts up front.
“It’s not just about them,” DeBoer continued. “They have a group around them, too, that gets the job done. Whether it’s the receivers or the tight ends we can’t do it without the offensive line, whose protected Mike and given them time to get open and get down the field.”
The Huskies (10-2, 7-2) kept Penix clean – no sacks allowed – for the ninth time this season and finish the 2022 regular season with seven sacks total given up after giving up 23 last season. For comparison, Washington hasn’t had a season with less than 10 sacks in over a decade.
Penix struggled early against the Cougars (7-5, 4-5) completing just 6 of 11 in the first quarter and 13 of 22 at halftime. However, when it mattered most late the junior quarterback got the job done.
“Our offense is amazing,” Penix said after the victory. “Early in the game they tried to play us kind of tight, a little close. They played a lot of man early on. They don’t have guys that can cover our guys. We trusted our guys more than them. We just took advantage of it.”
Penix finished the Apple Cup with 485 yards – his third 400-plus yard game of the season – and completed 25 of 43 pass attempts for three touchdowns and one interception.
His three passing touchdowns – Penix also had a pair of rushing touchdowns against WSU, one of which was initially ruled a catch after Jalen McMillan threw the ball back to the Husky quarterback but was determined to be a run – moves Penix into sole possession of third place for the most touchdown passes in a single season in school history (29).