Michael Penix Jr. hit Rome Odunze for an 18-yard TD with 1:38 to go to give No. 7 Washington a 36-33 win over No. 8 Oregon.
The touchdown pass came two plays after Oregon failed to convert a fourth down just inside Washington territory that could have sealed a win. The Ducks had a chance to tie the game as time expired but Camden Lewis’ 43-yard field goal sailed wide right.
Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) likely went for it on fourth down with just over two minutes to go because it knew how quickly Washington could score a touchdown. The Huskies got inside the 20 on their first play of the drive before Penix found Odunze in single coverage.
— Washington Football (@UW_Football) October 14, 2023
Penix entered the game as one of the top midseason candidates for the Heisman Trophy along with Oregon QB Bo Nix. Penix finished the game 22-of-37 passing for 302 yards and four touchdowns and an interception. Nix was 33-of-44 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Odunze had eight catches for 128 yards and two scores while Oregon’s Troy Franklin had eight catches for 154 yards and a score and RB Bucky Irving ran 22 times for 127 yards and a TD.
Oregon’s defense got it back into the game
Washington (6-0, 3-0) took a 29-18 lead in the third quarter and looked ready to pull away over the rest of the second half. But an Oregon defense that hadn’t forced a punt since Washington’s first drive of the game stepped up in a big way as the Ducks scored 15 straight points to take the lead.
After failing to convert a third-quarter fourth down inside the Washington 10 while training 29-18, Oregon’s defense forced a quick three-and-out and Washington’s second punt of the day.
After getting the ball at midfield, it took Oregon just three plays to score as Bo Nix found Franklin for a 30-yard TD. The ensuing two-point conversion cut Washington’s lead to three.
Oregon forced another three-and-out as Washington had the ball for less than a minute. The Ducks followed that stop by going 80 yards in six plays for the go-ahead score on a 10-yard run by RB Jordan James with 12:58 to go.
A game of missed fourth-down opportunities
Washington went 58 yards in 13 plays after Oregon took the lead and faced second down inside the Oregon 1 with less than nine minutes to go. However, the Oregon defense stepped up again, stopping Dillon Johnson on second and third downs and keeping Tybo Rogers out of the end zone on fourth down.
Yes, Washington ran the ball three consecutive times and kept the ball out of its Heisman candidate’s hands. While Penix appeared to be grimacing in pain from a big hit he had taken minutes earlier, the play sequence was set to be second-guessed by Washington fans for weeks had Oregon held on for the win.
Washington’s inability to convert on fourth down near the end zone came after Oregon didn’t convert two fourth downs inside Washington’s 10.
After picking off Penix with less than a minute to go before halftime, Oregon got to the Washington 3 yard-line. Instead of kicking a field goal to cut Washington’s lead to 22-21 at the break — Oregon was getting the ball to start the third quarter — the Ducks went for the TD. Nix ended up throwing an incomplete pass.
A potential rematch in December?
It’s entirely possible we could see both of these teams face off in the Pac-12 title game as the conference is in its second (and unfortunately final) year of not having any divisions. But both teams still have daunting paths to get there.
Washington ends the season with four consecutive ranked opponents (USC, Utah, Oregon State, Washington State), while Oregon still has all four of those teams on the schedule as well. The Pac-12 is the most entertaining conference in football and the race to the title should be incredible — but it also puts the conference in danger of missing the College Football Playoff once again.
Given all that’s transpired off the field in the Pac-12, the conference deserves to go out with a team in the playoff and to have a great race to the title game down the stretch. Hopefully we get both of those things.