College Football Playoff: Penix leads Washington past Texas

Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. drops back to pass against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl on Monday in Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
1 of 5 | Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. drops back to pass against the Texas Longhorns in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl on Monday in Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Michael Penix Jr. unleashed pinpoint-accurate passes en route to a 430-yard performance, leading Washington past Texas on Monday in the Sugar Bowl to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff title game.

Penix completed 29 of 38 passes and threw two touchdowns in the 37-31 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in New Orleans. The Huskies led by 13 in the second half, but had to hold off a Longhorns rally to seal the College Football Playoff semifinal win.


"I just continued to believe," Penix said on the ESPN broadcast. "It wasn't pretty. Everybody was believing and trusting that they would come up with that big-time stop."

The No. 2 Huskies will meet the No. 1 Michigan Wolverines next week in the title game. Earlier Monday, the Wolverines beat No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl Game, the first semifinal.


"These guys are the most resilient guys I've been around," Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer said. "They made a goal and all came back to do something special."

Huskies running back Dillon Johnson drew first blood in Monday's Sugar Bowl with a 2-yard touchdown run about 4 minutes into the game.

The Longhorns answered with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Running back Jaydon Blue ended that possession with a 5-yard run.

Johnson ran for his second touchdown of the night about 2 minutes into the second quarter, giving the lead back to the Huskies. The Huskies defense then forced a Texas punt, but return man Germie Bernard dropped the ball for a fumble, giving the ball back to the Longhorns.

Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II ran for a 1-yard touchdown four plays later.

Penix pushed the Huskies ahead for a third time when he threw a 29-yard touchdown toss to Ja'Lynn Polk with 1:27 remaining in the first half.

The Longhorns responded with a 10-play, 72-yard drive. Running back C.J. Baxter ended the possession with a 3-yard run. The game was tied 21-21 at halftime.

Penix and the Huskies scored 13-unanswered points to start the second half. The Heisman Trophy finalist ended the first drive of the half with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jalen McMillan.


Penix stepped back in the pocket and flicked his left wrist on that play. The ball came flying out of his hand and split two defenders before finding McMillan in the end zone.

Huskies edge rusher Bralen Trice forced a Baxter fumble on the first play of the next drive. Safety Asa Turner recovered the loose ball.

Huskies kicker Grady Gross made a 26-yard field goal less than 3 minutes later for a 31-21 advantage. Gross made a 40-yard kick 9 seconds into the fourth quarter to increase the Huskies lead to 13.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers ended the Texas scoring drought when he connected with Adonai Mitchell on a 1-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.

Gross made a yet another field goal on the next drive. That 27-yard kick gave the Huskies a 37-28 lead. Kicker Bert Auburn then answered with a 25-yard field goal with 1:09 remaining, cutting the deficit to six.

The Longhorns marched down to the Huskies' 12-yard line on the game's final possession. Washington's defense stood strong over the final seconds, denying several pass attempts in the end zone and securing their victory.


Johnson, who ran for 49 yards on 21 carries, appeared to sustain a right leg injury with less than a minute remaining in the game. He was carted to the locker room.

Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze totaled a game-high 125 yards on six catches. Polk caught five passes for 122 yards.

Trice logged two sacks and a forced fumble for the Huskies.

Baxter totaled 103 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches in the loss. Ewers completed 24 of 43 passes for 318 yards and one score. He also ran for 54 yards.

The Huskies will face Michigan at 7:30 p.m. EST on Monday at NRG Stadium in Houston.

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