Michael Penix Jr. feeling '100%' after battling cramps in Washington's win over Oregon
Michael Penix Jr., Washington’s super-senior star passer, fought through cramping in the 36-33 win over Oregon that was so severe he needed fluids on the sideline in between drives.
Head coach Kalen DeBoer said Monday that backup quarterback Dylan Morris nearly replaced him in the fourth quarter. Right before a drive, Penix was still in the team’s medical tent on the sideline with an IV.
“That wasn’t like a media deal. He was fighting to stand up at some points and even drive the football,” said UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb. “They were pulling IVs out right before he was going on the field, literally seconds before.”
Added DeBoer: “It was really tight. It was before a TV timeout and a change of possession. I popped in to see and knew they were going to push it until the very end, and then I didn’t see him come out of the tent. Dylan was ready to go. Mike came running out and got the play and ran straight to the huddle, so I didn’t even get a chance to talk to him. Those are the things that are the story within the story, the crazy things a lot of people don’t realize are happening.”
In more ways than one, it was a special performance from Penix to pull out a win at home and keep the Huskies’ unbeaten record intact.
Penix ended the game with 302 yards and four touchdowns through the air. He consistently gashed an Oregon defense that, to that point in the season, hadn’t been beaten deep. He had a pair of 26-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter and then hit Rome Odunze for an 18-yard touchdown that pushed UW ahead with less than two minutes remaining.
“I’m really proud of the way he battled,” DeBoer said. “He’s just super competitive. With all the experiences in his time playing football and all the things he’d been through, he was going to do everything to make sure he didn’t miss this opportunity to be in charge and lead the team to victory.”
It certainly wasn’t without drama, though. Trailing 33-29 with nine minutes to play, Penix hit Giles Jackson on a fourth-and-6 to set up a first-and-goal from the Oregon 8. A 7-yard carry from Dillon Johnson on the next play put UW at the 1 with three plays to work with.
On fourth-and-1, UW handed the ball off to Tybo Rogers and lost a year. Oregon held, and the Ducks thought they’d won the game.
When Grubb sat down at the podium on Monday, before a question was even asked, Grubb interjected. “Goal line,” he said with a smile. “Get the hard stuff out of the way.”
Grubb said they thought about a sneak. He didn’t want to put Penix in that position.
“Frustrating. We’re definitely close enough to sneak the football. I think probably my reservations — and Mike was frustrated. Mike wanted to do it,” Grubb said. “It wasn’t a desire piece by Penix. It was just my comfort level with (him). … My concern (with the cramping) probably overrode that decision just to see if Mike could power through that.”
Grubb said they felt good about the second-down run for Johnson, but got split on a double-team, gave up penetration on the left side of the line, and Johnson had nowhere to go. “That was unfortunate,” he said. Grubb said the sequencing of the next two plays called for Germie Bernard to be in on a specific package on fourth, but he left the field after the third down, “so the package got a little bit screwed up and we weren’t in the right formation,” Grubb said.
“That was a bummer, and obviously at the most critical time. Gotta own that and realize that situations like that just have to be controlled better.”
Obviously, things were complicated by UW not being able to sneak the ball.
Penix is feeling 100% after the game, Grubb said. No concerns moving forward.
“I think there was a perception he really got knocked around,” Grubb said. “From that standpoint, he was OK. He never even talked about that. But the cramping thing was real. … He’s great.”