Dawgs Claim First Football Championship with Last-Second Field Goal
The Washington Huskies are national champions for the first time in program history after a dramatic 39-38 victory over the Michigan Wolverines on Monday night in Houston. Washington kicker Peyton Henry nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired to cap an incredible comeback and deliver the Huskies their first national title since their 1991 co-national championship in baseball.
Heroics from Penix Jr. Set Stage for Game-Winner
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was the catalyst for the Huskies’ thrilling comeback. After Michigan took a 38-31 lead with just over two minutes remaining, Penix led Washington on a pressure-packed 75-yard drive, converting two crucial fourth downs. A scrambling 16-yard run from Penix on 4th-and-10 kept the drive alive and set up Henry’s last-second heroics. Penix finished with 342 passing yards and 4 touchdowns along with 64 rushing yards.
“I’m just so proud of this team and everything we’ve been through to get here,” said an emotional Penix after the game. “That was a championship drive right there. We knew we just needed to get into field goal range and we never lost faith.”
Back-and-Forth Battle Comes Down to Final Minutes
The game featured six lead changes as two determined heavyweights traded blows. Michigan struck first on an early Blake Corum touchdown run. But Washington responded when Bralen Trice sacked J.J. McCarthy in the end zone for a safety, cutting the deficit to 7-2.
The Huskies later took their first lead at 21-17 thanks to two Penix TD passes, but Michigan retook the lead before halftime on an 8-yard score from Donovan Edwards. Another back-and-forth third quarter saw Michigan cling to a 31-28 lead heading to the fourth in a white-knuckle battle.
Wolverines running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Blake Corum appeared to seal the game with his third touchdown run to make it 38-31 with 2:07 left. But Penix and the Huskies showed they had some magic left, driving 75 yards in just over two minutes before Henry’s clutch kick.
Harbaugh’s National Title Drought Continues
The loss continues Jim Harbaugh’s title drought at Michigan, losing in his second championship game appearance after also falling short in the 2021 season. Harbaugh is now 1-5 in bowl games with Michigan since taking over in 2015.
“Give Washington credit, they made the plays at the end and deserved to win,” Harbaugh said. “But I’m so proud of our guys and the fight they showed all season.”
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy also showed his youth at times, making some critical errors on Michigan’s final two drives including taking a sack to knock Michigan out of field goal range on a potential go-ahead drive.
There will be plenty of time to dissect what went wrong for Michigan after such a promising season. But tonight is about the Washington Huskies finally reaching the mountaintop.
First Championship Game Appearance for Washington
This was Washington’s first ever appearance in the CFP National Championship game. Led by first-year head coach Kalen DeBoer, the Huskies emerged this season as a new powerhouse program, going 13-2 to win their first Pac-12 title since 2016.
DeBoer, who came to Washington after a successful tenure at Fresno State, was overcome with emotion after leading his team to a storybook finish.
“I just can’t even put into words how proud I am,” said DeBoer. “This is the result of years and years of hard work from our players and staff culminating in this moment.”
- There will surely be major celebrations back in Seattle after the Huskies delivered the school’s first football national title
- DeBoer has Washington football back on the national stage and poised for more success after one of the great turnaround seasons
- Michigan will try to get over the heartbreak of another near-miss, with Harbaugh facing pressure and questions despite a 13-win season
- The future is bright for both programs, who have a home-and-home series scheduled for 2030 and 2031
On Monday night, however, the focus is rightfully on the Washington Huskies finally ascending to the top of college football in dramatic, storybook fashion with Peyton Henry’s title-winning kick cementing this team’s legacy forever. What an incredible finish to the 2024 season.
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