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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

From Underdogs to Contenders: The Unforgettable Journey of the Washington Huskies Football Team

Historic season of triumphs, challenges, and the rise of quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

The University of Washington Huskies football team recently concluded a historic season that very few saw coming. On January 8 2024, Washington found themselves in the College Football Playoff National Championship game matched up against the #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines came out of the gate strong, posting a 14-3 lead over the Huskies at the end of the first quarter. The Huskies answered in the second and by half it was just a one touchdown game with Washington trailing 17-10. After the half, both teams had a stagnant third quarter with the score being 20-13 in favor of the Wolverines as the fourth was ready to begin. In the end, the Wolverines had a dominant final quarter putting up 14 unanswered points and proved too much for the Huskies as Michigan won 34-13. Despite the loss, spirits were high for the Huskies as they reflected on the miraculous accomplishments they had made over the previous years. 

Back in mid-august of 2022 the college football season was ready to begin and the preseason AP Poll rankings were released. The typical teams were featured on the list with Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State towards the top among the other classic football dominant schools. Unsurprisingly to most, a team that was not featured was the Washington Huskies. Washington had struggled the season prior after they finished second to last in the PAC-12 North with an overall record of 4-8. Although, hopes were high for this 2022 season because of a new transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Penix previously attended Indiana where he showed promise however was held back due to multiple knee and shoulder injuries. 

The Huskies’ season began with three dominant preseason victories where the Washington offense proved fierce as they posted over 45 points per contest. From there conference play began and the Huskies started with a win over Stanford before they fell to UCLA in their second conference matchup. They followed up the loss with another unfortunate defeat to Arizona State. Many critics began to question the abilities of this squad after two conference losses early on. From then forward the Huskies won seven straight games including a big win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl to conclude the season. This victorious run placed Washington football as the 8th ranked team in the nation by the end of the season, a significant jump after not being included in the top 25 before the season began. 

The Huskies were on a roll and by the time mid-august 2023 came around they were ranked as the 12th best team in the nation by the preseason AP Poll. Washington picked up right where they left off, coming out with another 3-0 preseason record where they again won games by a significant average of over 34 points. Heading into conference play the Huskies were yet again placed as the 8th ranked team nationally. They came out of the gate strong, taking down California Berkeley, Arizona and edging out a three point victory over No. 7 Oregon. Penix was gaining recognition as one of the most talented quarterbacks in college football and Heisman talks circulated the media. The Huskies stormed ahead and won their next six games, guaranteeing them a spot in their final PAC-12 championship game. 

On Dec. 1 2023, Washington and Oregon were set to face off in the PAC-12 Conference Championship Game, a highly anticipated rematch between two of the best teams and quarterbacks in the country. The Huskies started off strong claiming a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. However, the Ducks stayed afloat in the second, with the halftime score being 20-10 in favor of Washington. After the break, the Huskies season seemed threatened as Oregon shut them out in the third quarter and took a lead of 24-20. Washington had a good performance in the fourth and solidified themselves as the PAC-12 Champions with a final score of 34-31. This victory proved the strength of the Huskies program and the excellence of Penix as a Heisman candidate.

Washington was then announced as a playoff team for the 2023 College Football Playoffs, and they knew they couldn’t take this chance for granted. The Huskies were matched up against the talented Texas Longhorns in the semifinal Sugar Bowl game on Jan. 1. This battle went back and forth but the Huskies took a 3rd quarter lead and held off the Longhorns from clawing back into the game. Washington eventually claimed victory 37-31 in a game where Penix posted 430 yards and two touchdowns. 

There was much to celebrate about this win, however the mindset quickly shifted on the difficult task ahead of facing the undefeated Michigan Wolverines in the Championship game. Although the Huskies fell short of winning the national championship, their stretch of 24 straight wins was a historic run and something that proved the strength of the Washington football program. 

This team took a 4-8 season in 2021, went into the next unranked, had a dominant ending to their 2022 season, and rode their wave of victories all the way to the 2023 College Football National Championship game. A chunk of this success can be allotted to a quarterback who took a chance on a program that he saw value in when others didn’t. Michael Penix Jr. turned Washington into a powerhouse of an offense, averaging over 327 yards per game and putting up 36 touchdowns, finishing the 2023 season as the runner up for the Heisman Trophy.

After the fallout of the PAC-12 Conference the University of Washington athletics find themselves in the Big Ten for the foreseeable future. 

Head coach Kalen Deboer announced his transfer to Alabama while Penix will be drafted as a top-10 quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft. While these losses could affect the success of the upcoming season, Arizona’s head coach, Jedd Fisch will be filling the role of Deboer. Fisch led the Wildcats to a similar underdog story this previous season and should help progress the Huskies in the future. 

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About the Contributor
Jakob Hansen
Jakob Hansen, Staff Writer

Jakob Hansen is a senior Staff Writer. When Jakob isn’t playing golf or shooting baskets, you can find him exploring nature, spending time with family, or skiing at Mount Bachelor. Jakob enjoys hanging out with friends and his dog Cooper. He is a driven student athlete who takes pride in his work in and out of the classroom. Jakob is very passionate about sports, which he is very much looking forward to writing about in The Summit Pinnacle.


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