Penix picks apart Arizona’s defense in Washington’s victory in Tucson

Sep 30, 2023, 11:08 PM

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies throws a pass during the second half of ...

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies throws a pass during the second half of the NCAAF game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. threw for 363 yards, Dillon Johnson ran for two touchdowns and No. 7 Washington picked apart Arizona in a 31-24 victory Saturday night.

The Huskies (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) arrived in the desert with more big plays than any other team in the country.

With the Wildcats taking away the deep ball, Penix turned to underneath throws, giving his receivers opportunities to make plays after the catch.

They did, following downfield blocking and breaking tackles to turn short throws into chunk plays. Washington’s run game provided the finishing touches, scoring all four of the Huskies’ touchdowns.

Penix completed 30 of 40 passes in Washington’s 12th straight win over two seasons.

Coming off a one-point win at Stanford, the Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) had few answers for Washington’s offense and didn’t do enough when they had the ball to pull off the upset.

Noah Fifita threw for 232 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in his first career start. He hit Tetairoa McMillan on a 10-yard touchdown pass to pull Arizona to 31-24 with 1:11 left, but Washington recovered the onside kick.

Washington was in a similar position a year ago, 4-0 and in the College Football Playoff conversation. The Huskies stumbled in their first road game with a loss to UCLA and lost again to Arizona State.

Washington’s offense did its part to avoid a repeat.

Penix put the Huskies in position, picking apart the Wildcats with short throws to the sidelines. Washington’s run game finished off the drives.

Johnson ran in a 4-yard touchdown on the Huskies’ opening drive, receiver Germie Bernard scored on 3-yard run and Will Nixon added an 8-yard TD run.

Arizona’s offense got off to a sluggish start without quarterback Jayden de Laura and running back Michael Wiley, both injured last week.

Fifita found a rhythm in the second quarter, orchestrating a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Cowing. Tyler Loop’s 30-yard field goal kept the Wildcats within 21-10 at halftime.

Washington stuck to the same script to start the second half.

Penix hit Josh Cuevas on a 57-yard pass and Devin Culp made a spectacular 18-yard catch with a defender draped on him, putting the Huskies in scoring position. Johnson finished it off, scoring on 4-yard run to put Washington up 28-10.

Fifita hit McMillan on an 8-yard touchdown pass to pull Arizona to 28-17, but threw an ill-advised interception on a flip pass while in the grasp of a defender.


Washington: The Huskies showed off their offensive versatility, taking what the defense gave them to pull out a road win before preparing for a showdown with No. 9 Oregon in two weeks.

Arizona: The Wildcats had some good moments offensively despite missing two key players, but had no real answer for Penix and the Huskies’ short-throwing offense.


Washington: Has an off week before hosting No. 9 Oregon in one of the most anticipated Pac-12 games of the season.

Arizona: Plays at No. 8 Southern California next Saturday.

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Penix picks apart Arizona’s defense in Washington’s victory in Tucson