Michael Penix Jr. brushes off Heisman talk after Texas win: 'We're looking to win the national championship'
Michael Penix Jr. reignited the Heisman Trophy discussion on Monday night with his performance in the Sugar Bowl, but after Washington closed out a 37-31 win over Texas to advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, Penix had no interest in discussing the Heisman.
“That’s over, man,” he told reporters after the game. “It don’t matter. Right now, man, we’re looking to win the national championship. That’s been my goal since Day 1.
“You won’t find an interview or anything of me saying that I want to win the Heisman. Like, that was never my goal. My goal was to win football games for this team. And we’ve been doing it — 14-0 here and we’ve got one more to go. So that’s my focus.”
Against the Longhorns, Penix threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns while completing 29 of his 38 pass attempts. He also ran for 31 yards on three attempts and was never sacked. Penix kept Washington, which never trailed in the game, on the front foot all night as he fired laser beams all over the field.
Rome Odunze finished with 125 yards on six catches. Ja’Lynn Polk finished with 122 yards on five catches. Jalen McMillan caught a touchdown. Seven different receivers caught a pass. Four players were targeted at least five times.
“He set the tone pretty quickly,” head coach Kalen DeBoer said. “This guy really all month was on another level as far as his mission to make sure that this happened. And I think you saw it all week in practice. There was just nothing he was going to let slide by where we would leave a doubt that we were going to find a way to win.”
Penix called a team meeting on New Year’s Eve. DeBoer said he wasn’t involved and didn’t know what was discussed, but he had a sense Penix wanted to “share his heart.” He said the passion Washington plays with can be traced back to Penix, who has been the driving force behind a national title run since he opted to return in 2023.
For his part, Penix engineered a career-defining moment on Monday night in New Orleans. After years of pain with Indiana, Penix has climbed to the summit with Washington.
“I feel like everything happened for a reason,” he said. “Coming out of high school, when I committed to Indiana University, my dad, he didn’t really want me to go there. He didn’t understand why I was going there. So that was something that was hard for me, just having somebody that I love the most not really… he didn’t see my vision.
“But obviously, it led me to here.”
DeBoer was his coordinator. When DeBoer took over at Washington and Penix hit the transfer portal, DeBoer became his lifeline. Two years later, Penix has become Washington’s everything.
“The only thing I can account for is what I do to help this team win football games,” Penix said, “and that’s what I’m all about.”