Dawgs Capture First Title Since 1991 Behind Heroics from Penix Jr.
The Washington Huskies are national champions after a thrilling 38-34 victory over the Michigan Wolverines on Monday night in Houston. Led by standout quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies stormed back from an early deficit to claim their first national title since 1991.
Penix delivered a legendary performance, throwing for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding a rushing touchdown. His pinpoint accuracy and late game heroics propelled Washington to their improbable championship run after being unranked in the preseason AP poll.
Meanwhile, Michigan’s bid to capture its first championship since 1997 fell just short. The Wolverines got off to a fast start and led 31-24 going into the fourth quarter after some early mistakes by Washington. But Penix brought the Huskies back with two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to stun the heavily favored Wolverines.
Penix Silences Critics with Brilliant Showing
Doubts surrounded Washington’s chances coming into Monday night’s game. The Huskies earned their spot by upsetting Ohio State and Clemson, but many felt they would be overmatched against the more complete Wolverines.
Penix spent the past month hearing criticisms of his arm strength and decision-making. But the Indiana transfer had the last laugh after picking apart Michigan’s highly-touted defense. His 310 yards and precision passes on critical drives in the fourth quarter proved Penix has the talent and poise to perform on the biggest stage.
The departed heroes from Washington’s last national title team in 1991 – Mario Bailey, Steve Emtman and Billy Joe Hobert – would approve of Penix’s clutch efforts. After some early miscues put Washington in a hole, Penix took the game over late just like those legends did decades ago.
Michigan Rallies Before Faltering Down the Stretch
The Wolverines dominated the first half and took a 31-24 lead into the fourth quarter behind three J.J. McCarthy touchdown passes. But costly mistakes and defensive lapses in the final period kept Michigan from finishing.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh fell short in his bid to deliver Michigan its first championship since his senior year as quarterback in 1997. Outside of a few defensive stops in the second half, the Wolverines had no answers for Penix.
McCarthy battled valiantly, finishing with 316 yards passing and three touchdowns plus a rushing score. But the magician ran out of tricks on Michigan’s final drive, as Penix got the best of his quarterback counterpart.
Penix Caps Incredible Turnaround With Legendary Final Quarter
The parallels were hard to ignore entering Monday night’s game. In 1991, Washington trailed Michigan late in the Rose Bowl when Hobert found Mario Bailey for the game-winning touchdown. Lightning struck again 33 years later, as Penix mimicked that heroic pass to put the Huskies ahead for good.
After Michigan raced out to a 14-0 start, Washington clawed their way back behind the spirited play of Penix. The Indiana transfer delivered pinpoint throws and courageous runs, showing no fear against Michigan’s vaunted defense. His beautiful pass to Rome Odunze with 3:25 remaining proved to be the championship-winning score.
Penix finished fourth in Heisman voting this season after missing multiple games due to injury. But there was no denying his toughness and talent on the grandest stage, as Penix fittingly punctuated his storybook season with the game-winning toss. After years of frustration with injuries and changing teams, Penix and the Huskies finally reached the mountaintop together.
Harbaugh’s Future Again Uncertain After Crushing Defeat
Harbaugh silenced doubters by leading Michigan to the Big Ten championship and securing a spot in the College Football Playoff this season. But Monday’s loss now puts his record in bowl games and against top-5 opponents further under the microscope.
Rumors swirled last season about Harbaugh potentially leaving for an NFL job. Expect that speculation to ramp up again following this brutal national title defeat.
Despite having Michigan on the doorstep of its long-awaited championship, Harbaugh’s teams have repeatedly come up short in crucial games. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel now faces a difficult decision on whether to extend Harbaugh’s contract beyond 2025.
This game likely also ends any remaining talk of Harbaugh jumping back to the NFL. His inability to win the biggest contest with four weeks to prepare raises serious questions about how he would fare on Sundays. For now, Harbaugh remains firmly planted in Ann Arbor. But without a contract extension soon, his seat will only get hotter entering 2025.
Dawgs Deliver Pacific Northwest’s First Football Title of New Year
While the Seattle area is best known for its basketball squad’s recent dynasty, the Washington football program stepped into the spotlight with a historic championship win. The outpouring of support across the Pacific Northwest demonstrated just how much this title meant to the region.
Washington governor Jay Inslee already placed a friendly wager with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer over Monday’s outcome. After the Dawgs’ thrilling victory, Inslee will enjoy an assortment of Michigan-made beer and wine thanks to the bet.
Expect a hero’s welcome when the Huskies return to Montlake Tuesday. The celebration promises to be on par with Seattle’s famous fan gatherings after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win last February.
The Emerald City has experienced glory before with the Storm’s four WNBA titles this century. But none of those runs captivated the entire state like the Huskies’ incredible journey from unranked to NCAA champions. These Dawgs will go down in Seattle lore right alongside Brandon Roy, Sue Bird and Shaun Alexander after bringing home that elusive football championship.
Washington and Michigan delivered an all-time classic national title game that came down to the final minutes. But Penix and the Huskies made the plays when it mattered most to realize their championship dreams. After years of waiting for the magic of 1991’s improbable run to return, Coach DeBoer and Washington fans can finally celebrate again thanks to their tenacious team. The ACC and Big Ten powers were no match for Penix and the Pac-12 underdogs this postseason.
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