Background and Lead-up
The 2024 College Football Playoff Sugar Bowl featured the #2 Washington Huskies taking on the #3 Texas Longhorns, with the winner advancing to face #1 Michigan in the national championship game.
Both teams featured star quarterbacks – Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. was coming off a record-breaking season, while Texas’ Quinn Ewers showed flashes of brilliance in his first year as a starter. The teams took very different paths to get to this point:
- Washington was led by head coach Kalen DeBoer, in just his second season after a meteoric rise from FCS head coach to the playoff in two years
- Texas was led by head coach Steve Sarkisian, a former Washington and USC head coach now in his second year rebuilding the Longhorns program
The game shaped up as a contrast in styles and experience levels, setting the stage for a dramatic matchup with high stakes.
First Half Recap
Washington struck first, with Penix finding star receiver Rome Odunze for a 52-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Texas responded, tying the game on an Ewers TD pass capped by a Bijan Robinson 2-point conversion. The teams traded blows throughout the first half.
Key First Half Plays and Notes:
- Penix and Odunze connected for 2 long TDs showcasing their dangerous chemistry
- Texas scored on a drive kept alive by a fake punt, showing their aggressive nature
- Washington built a 24-17 halftime lead behind a powerful rushing attack led by Wayne Taulapapa and Will Nixon
Second Half Drama
The second half began with both teams exchanging punts, but Washington extended their lead to 31-17 early in the 4th quarter on another Penix TD pass. Then the game took a dramatic turn.
Texas mounted a furious comeback bid behind Quinn Ewers’ precision passing. Two quick TD drives tied the game at 31 with just minutes remaining. Many began to wonder if Texas would pull off a shocking comeback victory.
But Washington, showing incredible poise under pressure, methodically drove down the field in response. Penix found Odunze once again for a big 3rd down conversion to set up Peyton Henry’s go-ahead 36-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.
|Washington’s Go-Ahead FG Drive
|32 yards, 6 plays, 1:42
|Texas’ Final Drive
|Stalls on INT by Asa Turner
A desperate final drive by Texas ended in heartbreak, as Asa Turner intercepted Quinn Ewers’ deep ball attempt as time expired.
Final Score: Washington 37, Texas 31
The improbable comeback bid coming up just short left the Texas coaches and players crestfallen but proud:
“We showed tremendous heart and fight at the end,” Sarkisian said. “I’m so proud of this team even in defeat.”
“It hurts a lot right now but we never stopped battling,” Ewers noted. “We faced a great team and came up one play short.”
The Washington sideline erupted when Turner sealed the victory, sending the Huskies into uncharted national title game territory:
“I can’t even describe the feeling right now,” said an emotional DeBoer after reaching the pinnacle in just his second year. “The poise our guys showed today is special.”
Penix Jr. Cements His Star Status: His outstanding 353-yard, 4-TD performance under intense playoff pressure showed why he was the Pac-12 player of the year. His chemistry with top target Rome Odunze proved lethal.
Texas Makes a Statement Despite Loss: The Longhorns traded blows all game with a more veteran playoff contender and their furious late comeback left Washington on the ropes. The future remains exceedingly bright in Austin.
Contrasting Coaching Paths Converge: DeBoer’s perfect playcalling keyed Washington’s win, while Sarkisian had Texas on the doorstep of a program-shifting victory. Both young offensive-minded coaches have their teams ahead of schedule.
This instant classic Sugar Bowl showed off stellar quarterback play, dramatic momentum swings, and aggressive play-calling indicative of the modern college game. For Washington, an opportunity for the program’s first national title awaits. For Texas, the foundation has been laid for a potential championship run of their own in coming years.
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