EUGENE, Ore. — Oh, you want words for that? 

You want the magnitude of what the Huskies just did in Autzen Stadium to be pared down into a few dozen sentences?

Not the easiest task, but then again, far easier than what Washington just pulled off against No. 6 Oregon. By beating the Ducks 37-34 Saturday, UW notched the program’s most memorable victory since the last time it won in Eugene six years earlier. Heck, this one might have been even more iconic. 

It cemented one player’s legacy, provided Hollywood-level redemption for another and re-established No. 24 Washington (8-2, 5-2 in the Pac-12) as a national power — all while stripping the Huskies’ chief rival of a chance to go to the College Football Playoff. 

“They’re going to be talking about this 10 or 20 or 30 years down the road,” first-year UW coach Kalen DeBoer said. 

They sure will be. Here’s why.

For starters, it validated quarterback Michael Penix Jr. The fifth-year junior had been stuffing the stat sheet all year long, coming into Saturday’s game second in the nation with 3,232 passing yards. And his 2022 success came on the heels of a college career full of injuries, which precluded him from ever playing more than six games in a season at Indiana from 2018-2021. But one thing that was lacking on his Huskies résumé was a signature win — a victory that certified how prolific he is between the lines. 

It looked as if that “W” might elude him again Saturday when he threw a fourth-quarter interception on first-and-goal from the 1 with his team down 31-27. Then, he led two scoring drives — the first of which ended with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Taj Davis with three minutes to go — to solidify his status as a Huskies legend. 

Advertising

“I knew this team was going to fight to the end. We had no doubt in our mind that we were going to come down here and do what we just did today,” said Penix, who finished 26 of 35 passing for 408 yards and two touchdowns. “I’m definitely in the right place. I’m glad I chose here and — man — I look forward to continuing to make memories here.”

But Penix doesn’t get that win if not for place kicker Peyton Henry, who notoriously missed a 37-yard field goal that robbed the Huskies of a win at Autzen in 2018. It was a textbook nightmare that, four years later, was replaced by a Tinseltown moment. 

With 51 seconds left Saturday and the score tied at 34-34, DeBoer called on Henry as the Huskies faced a fourth-and-2 from Oregon’s 25. And the sixth-year senior answered by drilling a 43-yarder that ultimately gave Washington the win. 

Henry admitted that he’d had trouble moving on from the missed field goal from 2018 — that the kick was “always in the back of the mind” and messed with his “mentals.” Now? That’s all in the past. 

“People would say that when they think of me they think of that kick, so I hope they remember me for this kick,” Henry said.

So you’ve got a quarterback who’s validated and a kicker who’s vindicated. But perhaps most significantly, you’ve got a program that is once again vaunted. 

Advertising

It was hard to know what to make of Washington before it took on first-place Oregon, which came into the game 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Pac-12. The Huskies had accumulated a slew of wins, but looked shaky in many of them while failing to knock off anyone who’d be considered a legitimate power. That’s no longer the case. 

Before Saturday, the Ducks had a strong chance of reaching the College Football Playoff if they won the remainder of their games. The Pac-12’s leading scoring team was also a 13-point favorite against UW and didn’t punt once Saturday (although some would say they should have on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 on its penultimate possession). But the Ducks couldn’t out-duel the Huskies, who just demonstrated to a national audience that they have returned to prominence four years after their last Pac-12 title. 

Perhaps the only thought sullying Saturday’s win in the minds of Washington players was their 45-38 loss to Arizona State (3-7) four games earlier. If they had beaten the struggling Sun Devils, the Huskies wouldn’t just be in the Pac-12 title conversation — they’d be in the CFP discussion, too.

Oh, well. Doubtful that interferes with the euphoria of Saturday’s win.

A lifetime memory was created in Eugene. Might want to start getting used to those.