Week 3 Gold Stars: Husky heroes get recognition after shocking Sparty
Welcome to the Week 3 edition of Gold Stars, my weekly look at the Pac-12’s best individual performers.
We’ll keep a running track of the Gold Stars of the Week, all leading up to the Gold Stars of the Year column in December. It’s exactly like the Heisman Trophy, only there’s no ceremony, no trophy, and no one puts this on their résumé. As a note: 1st-place finishers get 3 gold stars, 2nd-place get 2 and 3rd-place gets 1.
Also, I’m on the voting committee for Pac-12 weekly awards, and I’ll include my ballot below Gold Stars.
Week 2 winners were: USC QB Caleb Williams (3 stars), Oregon State S Kitan Oladapo, USC WR Jordan Addison (1 star).
Week 1 winners were: Arizona WR Jacob Cowing (3 stars), Washington QB Michael Penix (2 stars), Washington State LB Daiyan Henley (1 star).
|Michael Penix Jr.||Washington||Quarterback||5|
|Daiyan Henley||Washington State||Linebacker||3|
|Jacob Cowing||Arizona||Wide Receiver||3|
|Kitan Oladapo||Oregon State||Safety||2|
|Jordan Addison||USC||Wide Receiver||2|
|Ja'Lynn Polk||Washington||Wide Receiver||1|
On to the Gold Stars of Week 3…
1. Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (3 stars)
Saturday was quite the day for Apple Cup participants, led by the Huskies’ impressive quarterback.
Impressive might not even be a strong enough word for what Penix did to Michigan State on Saturday.
The 11th-ranked Spartans headed to Husky Stadium ready to pounce, only it was Washington that did the dealing. Penix, to be specific. The Indiana transfer went 24-for-40 for 397 yards and 4 touchdowns with zero interceptions. It was his second game this year with 340-plus yards and 4 scores with no picks, after torching Kent State in Week 1.
Only Kent State is no Michigan State.
For Penix to light up the No. 11 team in the country in such a fashion should be terrifying for his Pac-12 foes. Much was made of Kalen DeBoer’s hire heading into the season, but his partnership with Penix has been a sight to see.
2. Washington State LB Daiyan Henley (2 stars)
Like Penix, Henley got off to a tremendous start in Week 1, and also like Penix, his performance landed him on the Gold Stars list.
In that game — a less-than-impressive, 24-17 win over Idaho — Henley had 8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. He somehow topped himself on Saturday in a 38-7 win over Colorado State.
Henley had a game-high 13 tackles, including 5 solo, plus 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles against the Rams. For the year, he leads the league in sacks, tackles-for-loss and forced fumbles and ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in tackles. And he’s not just a stat book darling.
Pro Football Focus graded Henley as the second-best linebacker in the country in Week 3 and he ranks as the top Pac-12 defender this season. Less than a month into the year, he’s got pole position for the conference DPOY award.
Daiyan Henley has quickly proven to be one of top portal gets in all CFB this year. @WSUCougarFB staff has done nice job utilizing his untapped blitz ability. @daiyan_henley11 had 0 sacks in five seasons at Nevada and already has 4.0 in three games.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/2Uj1Rflnh8
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) September 19, 2022
3. Washington WR Ja’Lynn Polk (1 star)
For the 3rd straight week, a dynamic wideout finds himself with a coveted Gold Star.
Unlike Jordan Addison and Jacob Cowing, the other two receivers on the list, Polk’s production came from nowhere. In Week’s 1 and 2, Polk had 45 and 47 yards (including a touchdown), respectively. Not bad by any means for the redshirt freshman, but nothing like the last year’s Belitnikoff Award winner, Addison, and the former UTEP star Cowing.
On Saturday, Polk was the primary beneficiary of Penix’s phenomenal performance against the Spartans, catching 6 passes for 153 yards and 3 of Penix’s 4 touchdowns. Polk, who hails from the same high school as former NFL wideouts Dez Bryant and Keke Coutee –Lufkin High in Texas — entered the game with 4 career touchdowns and a former single-game high of 61 yards.
Against the Spartans, Polk had grabs of 53 (TD), 37, 22 (TD), 17, 16 and 8 (TD) yards. That means this was no fluke. It’s not as if he caught a few long balls because he snuck behind the defense. He was an integral part of the passing offense, and it reasons that he’ll continue to be going forward.
My Pac-12 Weekly Awards ballot:
Defensive Line POW: Oregon DL Brandon Dorlus
Dorlus had a career-best 7 tackles against No. 12 BYU, helping the Ducks shut down the Cougars’ rushing offense. He had 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack, his best production this year. Dorlus came into the year with big expectations — now he seems to be living up to them.
Defensive POW: Washington State LB Daiyan Henley
Henley has been absolutely ferocious for the Cougars this year, but 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles? That’s wild.
Honorable mentions: Oregon DE Brandon Dorlus, Arizona LB Jerry Roberts, USC LB Solomon Byrd
Freshman POW: Washington WR Ja’Lynn Polk
Not sure how I feel about giving a third-year player this award, but Polk is technically a redshirt freshman, and he absolutely dominated the Spartans. By letter of the law, this one’s a no-brainer.
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) September 19, 2022
Offensive Line POW: Washington OT Troy Fautanu
Fautanu is a big reason the Washington starting line has yet to allow a sack this season. But he and the Huskies were at another level on Saturday against the Spartans, scoring touchdowns on 5 of their first 6 drives. Washington had 503 yards against the Spartans.
Offensive POW: Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.
The 397 yards on 24-of-40 passing is impressive enough. Averaging nearly 10 yards per pass means Penix was looking down the field and not settling. But 4 touchdowns and no picks means Penix was as aggressive as he was careful with the ball. That is one dangerous combination.
Honorable mentions: Oregon QB Bo Nix, Washington State QB Cameron Ward, USC RB Travis Dye
Special Teams POW: UCLA K Nicholas Barr-Mira
Barr-Mira has helped bring consistency back to the Bruins’ kicking game, but he took it to another level on Saturday, in both accuracy and timing. The junior kicker hit a game-winner from 24 yards out, in addition to three other field goals on a 4-for-4 day. His 49-yard kick in the first quarter was a career-high for yardage.