Gold: Convincing win over talented Boise State team puts No. 10 Huskies on Playoff path
A stout Week 1 opponent can be a bit of a mixed blessing. They can either prove you’re for real or expose your weaknesses in the rawest of ways.
Washington, then, should consider it a gift to have been given the chance to take on a team like Boise State, one with conference championship aspirations and a legitimate target of double-digit wins.
But when you take advantage of that opportunity the way Washington did on Saturday against the Broncos in a 56-19 season-opening win, it should be rewarded.
On a day when much of the Top 10 played patsies, the Huskies tangled with a top Group of 5 contender. Not just tangled with, dominated. For that, they should be rewarded.
Last year, Kalen DeBoer and Co. took the country by surprise. Coming off a 4-8 season that included a crisis with a head coach and a lost locker room, expectations were minimal. Much of the country had not been introduced to DeBoer, who had just 18 games of head coaching experience at the FBS level with Fresno State.
But DeBoer took along with him fantastic offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, well, also bringing with him familiar former Indiana quarterback, Michael Penix Jr., who thrived under his former offensive coordinator DeBoer in one season with the Hoosiers in 2019.
We know what happened next: Penix exploded last year for one of the great seasons by a Huskies quarterback in history, leading the country in passing yardage per game while throwing 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. With Penix blossoming into a top tier quarterback, the Huskies improved to 11 and two, including a convincing Alamo bowl, win over No. 20 Texas.
All season long, though, it was an uphill climb for Washington to gain respect, especially after back to back losses — it’s only two of the season — came in Weeks 5 and 6.
This year, the Dawgs aren’t surprising anyone.
They are a known quantity, ranked in the preseason top 10 for the first time since 1991 — which culminated in an unbeaten season and a share of the national title — and just the second time ever.
Those heightened expectations made Saturday’s win that much more impressive.
Because the Huskies actually exceeded them.
It took a little for UDub to rev up, but once it did, the Huskies took off.
Washington went for negative yards on two of its first three plays, a negative rush by Dillon Johnson and a sack to Penix. The second drive? Not much better — just 25 yards.
“We knew they would come in here and do some things — they’re just a solid all-around program that has high expectations,” DeBoer said after the game. “We knew they had some some athletes, some players on both sides of the ball that we had to be be conscious of, and make sure we were paying special attention to. But I just thought, even though it was a slow start, the second quarter and the build up, the resiliency — I’m just really proud of the guys.
Then they responded to Boise State’s first score with a touchdown of their own, going 73 yards in 7 plays and just 3 minutes, 32 seconds, capped off by a Penix-to-Jalen McMillan touchdown connection.
Two drives after that, another touchdown. And two drives after that, another. All of a sudden, Washington found itself up 21-9, full steam ahead.
Unlike last year, however, when the team struggled to put teams away, the Huskies hit another gear.
Washington blitzed the Broncos with a 21-0 4th quarter to put the final touches on the 37-point win, it’s biggest in a season opener in at least a decade.
For the game, Penix finished finished 29-of-40 passing for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns with no picks. At times, he made it look easy, relighting his rapport with Rome Odunze (7 catches for 132 yards and a score), Jalen McMillan (8 catches for 95 yards and 2 scores) and Ja’Lynn Polk (3 catches for 101 yards and a score).”
“Talent, right?” DeBoer said. “I mean, just our receiving corps doing what they do. We missed a couple, stayed with it, didn’t give up on throwing the ball down the field. They were really attacking some of the short stuff that we were trying to throw. We were struggling to even just to get completions on 3-, 5-yard gains. … Mike’s just so well-versed that he can make little calls and little checks and go through progressions and based on what he sees, find the guys he needs to pretty quickly.”