No. 5 Washington aims to avoid letdown vs. Arizona State

Field Level Media

October 17, 2023 at 9:46 pm.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is the clear frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race.

Continuing to pile up victories will only help that cause and the No. 5 Huskies look to add another when they host Arizona State on Saturday night in Pac-12 play at Seattle.

Penix threw the winning 18-yard touchdown to Rome Odunze with 1:38 left last weekend when then-No. 7 Washington (6-0, 3-0) edged then-No. 8 Oregon 36-33 in an epic conference showdown.

Penix passed for 302 yards and four touchdowns in his latest strong performance. He ranks second nationally with 2,301 passing yards and fourth with 20 touchdown passes but the poise he displayed at the end of the huge game only elevated his Heisman status.

“I never lose that confidence,” Penix said. “And that’s something that we got throughout the team and something coach (Kalen DeBoer) has instilled in us as well. Our preparation, we prepare at a high level and it allows us to go out there on game day and execute at a high level.”

Before one fourth-quarter drive, Penix was in the medical tent receiving an IV for repeated cramping issues. Backup Dylan Morris was being prepared to take the field when Penix suddenly emerged from the tent, got the play and went directly to the huddle.

“Those are the stories within the story,” DeBoer said. “Those are the crazy things that a lot of people don’t realize what is happening. … He was just trying to get himself ready to take the next snap. I’m proud of him. He’s super competitive.”

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham is impressed with what he’s seen of Penix.

“His release is incredible, just the ability for him to get the ball out to somewhere where he’s not looking,” Dillingham said. “He’s a vet and he’s a freakish talent. He’s really good.”

Meanwhile, DeBoer’s next challenge is making sure the Huskies don’t have a letdown against Arizona State (1-5, 0-5), which has dropped five straight games.

However, the Sun Devils have been a major thorn to Washington. Arizona State won a 42-35 shootout last season in Tempe and has prevailed in 13 of the past 15 meetings.

DeBoer doesn’t foresee a problem.

“We have enough guys who are completely vested and have a voice and want it extremely bad,” DeBoer said. “They hold each other accountable.”

Arizona State is coming off a bye after back-to-back three-point losses to Colorado and Cal.

Trenton Bourguet, who passed for three touchdowns against Washington last season, began the season as the backup to Jaden Rashada. Both players were injured during a 29-0 loss to Fresno State on Sept. 16 with a foot injury causing Bourguet to miss one game.

Rashada remains sidelined and Dillingham said it could be another four weeks before he’s ready to play.

“He’s been doing a good job rehabbing and getting out,” Dillingham said. “He’s gonna start to get a little bit more engaged in terms of the game plans and being more dialed in.”

Bourguet has been sharp in his two starts, completing 26 of 41 passes for 344 yards against Cal and hitting 32 of 49 for 335 yards versus Colorado.

Defensive end Prince Dorbah leads Arizona State with six sacks as part of a unit allowing 28.3 points. The task of stopping Washington will be immense as the Huskies rank third nationally in total offense (543.7 yards per game) and are tied for fifth in scoring (44.3 points per game).

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