Michael Penix Jr. has not played his last game at Washington.
Though UW’s redshirt junior quarterback — who leads the nation with 4,354 passing yards — has yet to decide if he’ll enter the 2023 NFL draft, he confirmed in a virtual news conference Monday that he plans to play in the Huskies’ to-be-determined bowl game.
“I really haven’t had the opportunity to think about what I’m doing at the next level yet, whether I’m staying or going,” Penix said. “But as far as the bowl game, as far as right now, I’m definitely looking forward to playing with my team and being there for those guys. I definitely want to be there for those guys.”
When asked to clarify if the above answer represents a definite bowl commitment, Penix added: “Yessir, I’m looking forward to playing in it.”
Penix — a fifth-year junior and Indiana transfer — has yet to participate in a bowl game, with each of his previous four seasons ending early because of injuries. He completed 66% of his passes in 12 games this fall, contributing 33 total touchdowns (29 passing, four rushing) with seven interceptions.
No. 9 Washington (10-2) leads the nation not only in passing but first downs (27.4), third-down conversions (57.06%) and completions of 10 yards or more (182). The Huskies sit second in total offense (522.2 yards per game), behind only Tennessee (538.1).
Penix’s aerial theatrics will last at least one game longer.
“No, it never came up,” said UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, when asked if they addressed Penix playing in a bowl game. “I’m not surprised at all. Mike’s a competitor, and he’s the ultimate teammate. I didn’t even feel like that was a discussion we needed to have, honestly.”
UW overcomes illness
Last week, Washington weathered much more than WSU.
UW coach Kalen DeBoer said Monday that “about the only thing I was maybe a little bit nervous on, on both sides of the ball, was just the week of practice with the sickness going around. I know Darren Nystrom, our head athletic trainer … this morning I said, ‘Give me a number,’ and he said there were over 50 guys who had some type of sickness and symptoms over the course of the week. There were multiple days where we had 10 guys, at least, missing practice.”
Indeed, UW sophomore Faatui Tuitele tweeted Sunday that he and fellow defensive lineman Tuli Letuligasenoa “battled the flu during the game [among many others on the team] and fought through it.” Junior defensive lineman Ulumoo Ale missed the game due to illness, DeBoer confirmed.
“[Winning despite that adversity] is something I’m pretty proud of, because that just shows the resiliency this team has and how far we’ve come from the middle of the year — when maybe we couldn’t have gotten through something like that,” DeBoer said.
Grubb’s next step
Grubb deserves credit for improving an offense that nearly doubled its scoring offense this season, from 21.5 points per game in 2021 to 40.8 (fifth in the nation) in 2022.
But on Monday, finalists for the Broyles Award — which honors college football’s premier assistant coach — were announced, and Grubb was not included.
The finalists were Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh, Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley and Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters.
“I just saw that right before I walked up here,” DeBoer said. “I mean no disrespect to the other finalists, because those finalists obviously are very deserving. But man, what he’s done for our program and what the offense looked like this year … for the most part with the same guys. Your trigger man’s different, but Ryan just instilled a lot of confidence in our offense from day one — the organization, the plan that’s in place, making sure the staff’s on the same page each and every day to where the message is very clear, whether it’s X and O oriented or just culture-oriented within the offense.
“Man, he’s built great relationships with these players, not just on offense but across the board. The impact he’s made certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.”
It may soon be noticed by athletic directors searching for a head coach. Grubb admitted Monday that he aspires to become a head coach but added: “I think you’ve got to take the same advice you’re giving your quarterback, right? You’ve got to put that stuff aside and do your job and focus on what’s in front of you. I think that’s served Mike obviously really well. He’s done such a good job with that, of leaving that stuff by the wayside. I’m super happy at Washington. I told my guys that, and I couldn’t be more fired up to keep leading this team.”
Besides, Grubb may also have unfinished business in his current role.
“I’ve told [athletic director Jen Cohen] this, and I’ve told Kalen this: I have a deep passion for calling plays,” he said. “For me, I do have a desire to be the best O-coordinator in the country. That’s a deep-seated belief in who I am and what I want to be. So there’s definitely a path I’m on with that right now.”
- Three UW players earned weekly honors Monday — as Penix was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, right guard Henry Bainivalu was named Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week and edge Jeremiah Martin was named Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week.
- Sophomore linebacker Daniel Heimuli has been indefinitely suspended due to a violation of UW’s Intercollegiate Athletics code of conduct, DeBoer said Monday. The 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker from East Palo Alto, California, tallied five tackles and a tackle for loss in seven games as a reserve this fall.
- Junior tight end Jack Westover left the Apple Cup because of a concussion, DeBoer confirmed. The injury came on a two-yard reception in the third quarter that ended with a hit near the head area from WSU defensive back Sam Lockett III. DeBoer said UW has sent the play to the Pac-12 office for review of potential targeting. The Huskies expect Westover to return for their bowl game.
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