Sonny Sixkiller needed four plays in 1970 to shock Michigan State with an instant touchdown pass on the way to a 26-point victory.
On Saturday, the Michael Penix Jr.-led University of Washington football team took a little more time than that, requiring eight plays to get the scoreboard flickering — you know, inflation and all — but the effect was identical as the Huskies churned out an uproarious 39-28 victory at Husky Stadium.
The Kalen DeBoer era firmly established itself in Montlake on this evening with a lopsided outcome over a touted Big Ten team on a national ABC-TV broadcast before a loud and enthusiastic crowd of 68,161.
After a pair of mismatch wins to open the season, the Huskies (3-0) showed the college football world they can not only score on anyone but beat them, too.
“There’s always a lot of talk about the Big Ten [is so much better than] the Pac-12 every single year,” safety Alex Cook said. “We’re so tired of hearing that.”
If Michigan State (2-1) runs into Penix any time again, it will be too soon.
The Indiana transfer, well acquainted with the Spartans after playing them twice before at his previous stop, had more completions (18) and yards (278) at halftime than Sixkiller in his entire Michigan State debut and just as many touchdown throws (3). He was just getting warmed up. He was well protected, too, going a third consecutive game without getting sacked.
Michael Penix Jr. celebrates a Husky touchdown.
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
On the first drive of the game, the cool lefty was ever so precise as he directed the Huskies 77 yards down the field in those eight plays for a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Lynn Polk, the first of three for them and four for Penix collectively.
Penix put his team in scoring position with a 47-yard pass to Jalen McMillan on the Michigan State 7 that was just out of the reach of Spartans nickelback Chester Kimbrough.
The Huskies needed just 3:48 to get things rolling with those points.
“They showed how much they want it,” DeBoer said. “Building that confidence and energy. It showed how we came out of the blocks right away.”
The Huskies got stymied on their second drive by moving 71 yards to the Michigan State 1, only to be denied on four running plays by an extra stout defensive effort led by defensive tackle Simeon Barrow. The UW went 0, 0, -1 and 0 yards with Penix getting dropped on fourth down. This actually would happen in the fourth quarter, too.
Undaunted, the Huskies earned a safety a play later when Spartans tailback Jarek Broussard couldn’t get out of the end zone and fell down.
Starting at midfield after the Michigan State free kick went out of bounds, Penix took the Huskies in for another score in a snappy six plays. He put his team on the Michigan State 3 with a 37-yard pass to tight end Jack Westover and two plays later handed off to Cam Davis for a 1-yard scoring run over left guard. Davis would finish as the game’s leading rusher with 69 yards on 17 carries.
Barely a minute into the second quarter, and after Sixkiller and his family had come out on the field to be saluted by an appreciative crowd, the Huskies led 16-0.
Keeping the pressure on, they got the ball back after stopping the visitors on downs and moved 60 yards for a 19-yard scoring pass to running back Wayne Taulapapa. The Virginia transfer caught the ball on the 1 under heavy coverage, spun around and reached his hand over the goal line. The extra-point snap was botched. The UW led 22-0 midway through the quarter.
Michigan State finally got untracked and, in typical Big Ten fashion, moved 75 yards in a plodding 15 plays over 7:02 for a 7-yard TD pass from Payton Thorne to Keon Coleman, a ball that newly installed UW cornerback Julius Irvin nearly intercepted. Those two Spartans also hooked up for a two-point conversion pass and the UW lead was narrowed to 22-8 with 1:22 left in the half.
This was just enough time for Penix to get the Huskies into the end zone one more time before taking the half ended.
He moved his team 65 yards in eight plays and threw a 17-yard TD pass to Polk. He found the receiver in the left corner of the end zone with a bare four seconds remaining and the halftime lead was 29-8.
Ja’Lynn Polk had three touchdown catches against Michigan State.
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
Coming out of the break, Michigan State tried to make a game of it with an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by 17-yard TD pass to Trey Mosley from Thorne. A two-point conversation pass failed and the score was 29-14. This made things interesting.
Leave it to the Huskies to respond with what equated to a return serve that was too hot to handle. They went 73 yards in four plays and scored on Penix’s 53-yard dart to Polk, taking a lot of air out of the Spartans in the process. That upped the lead back to 36-14. Yet this one wasn’t quite over yet.
“They were a great team,” Penix said. “They were going to keep swinging. I knew they weren’t going to quit. We couldn’t quit, as well.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Michigan State held the Huskies on another goal-line stand beginning at the 2, holding the home team to 1, 0, 0 and 0 yards on consecutive runs, with Penix getting dropped again on the final carry.
The UW nearly got another safety with Husky hybrid Dom Hampton blitzing off the corner and almost dropping Thorne in the back of the end zone. Instead, he pressured the Spartans quarterback into throwing an interception to Irvin at the Spartans 11 near the sideline at DeBoer’s feet.
Peyton Henry’s 26-yard field goal pushed the Husky lead to 25 points, at 39-14, and too much for Michigan State to overcome even with a pair of late touchdowns.
Penix finished with 24 completions in 40 throws for 397 yards and the 4 scores. Polk caught 6 passes for 153 yards and his trifecta of six-pointers. The Huskies piled up 503 yards of total offense to Michigan State’s 365.
The students rushed the field when the game ended, first engulfing Penix, who for the first time this season invited someone to tackle him.
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