Gold: Kalen DeBoer sets ridiculously high standards with 11th win, Alamo Bowl victory
Winning 10 games at Washington has always been an achievement, but winning 11 is rarified air. The list of Husky coaches who’ve achieved the feat is small: Don James, Rick Neuheisel and Chris Petersen.
And now you can add Kalen DeBoer to that list, and in his first season at the helm, no less.
Washington’s 27-20 Alamo Bowl win over No. 20 Texas on Thursday was not just a momentous victory for DeBoer and the program, it was a sign to the college football community that Seattle is once again heating up, after a few down years.
It was also a sign to a post-UCLA and USC Pac-12 that the path to the championship might just head through the Pacific Northwest.
Washington really went from 4-8 to 11-2.
Kalen DeBoer is a real one. pic.twitter.com/azs6PHuhWp
— Saturday Out West (@satoutwest) December 30, 2022
Much ink has been spilled about Washington’s prolific offense this season, and rightfully so. The Huskies averaged 40.75 points per game during the regular season, ranking in the top 5 nationally, and featured the most prolific passing attack in the country, with the nation’s leading passer in Michael Penix Jr.
But their defense was most certainly overlooked.
Washington ranked 3rd in the Pac-12 total defense and 4th in scoring offense, and the Huskies once again toughened up on Thursday.
With star running back Bijan Robinson and backup Roschon Johnson sitting out to prepare for the NFL Draft, Texas manage just 51 rushing yards on 18 carries — an average of 2.8 yards per rush — and converted just 6-of-15 3rd downs.
Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers managed 369 passing yards and a score but needed 47 attempts to do so, and Huskies’ star defensive lineman Bralen Trice sacked him twice.
“We just knew we had to keep playing and nonstop motor,” Trice said. “We’ve got to put a cap on them and finish the game out. I think personally going into every series, I’m just mentally telling myself I’ve just got to give everything I can and empty the tank every single time, and I know it kind of reflects on the rest of the defense because I know those guys can feel my energy.”
After the game, Washington’s 7th straight win, Trice’s motor was still running.
“All this momentum we’ve built up from all these wins, all this hard work we put in, I feel like I could go out and play another game,” Trice said.
If it sounds like this one meant something special to the Huskies, it’s because it did. No Washington players opted out for the game, something DeBoer has crowed about.
And the offense was fully bought in, with Penix and running back Wayne Taulapapa (14 carries, 108 yards, 1 score) both thriving, particularly in the 3rd quarter, when the Huskies had back-to-back touchdown drives of 75 and 90 yards. Penix shook off an opening-drive interception to finish with 287 passing yards and 2 scores.
“Just continuing to believe in our preparation,” Penix said of the Huskies’ 2nd-half performance. “We prepare the best out of everybody in the country, and that starts with our offensive coordinator, coach (Ryan) Grubb. He makes sure we always know what the situation is. Early on, it wasn’t clean and we wished we did a lot better. But at the same time, we knew this team and this offense wasn’t going to stop.”
After an 11-win season by DeBoer, Grubb and Co., it doesn’t appear that the offense is going to stop any time soon.
Penix returns next season, and so might his top 3 receivers in Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk, with Odunze flirting with declaring early for the NFL Draft.
DeBoer was asked after the win if he found himself struggling not to look ahead, and he broke out into a wide smile. He knows what the future entails.
“You want to celebrate it because you’ve got guys like Wayne who put so much into this and you really want them to be able to enjoy and celebrate with them what we’ve all accomplished,” DeBoer said. “But you can’t help but be fired up about what we have returning. I really still think there is so much room and area for us to improve and that’s the scary thing.
“Every year is its own year and when we have this chance to get back together here in January we have to reset everything. There’s going to be new leaders and different vibes and nothing we did this year carries over. No points, no wins, it all starts over.”