Despite strong rain and winds in Seattle, the Washington Huskies moved to 10-0 with a 35-28 victory over the Utah Utes.
What did we learn about the Washington Huskies on Saturday?
Michael Penix Looked Healthy
The Heisman front-runner has not looked like himself in games the past few weeks. That changed on Saturday against the Utah Utes. Despite facing a tough defense and some challenging conditions, Michael Penix Jr. looked as good as he has since the win over Oregon in mid-October. He was 24-42 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown. Utah has one of the better defenses in the PAC-12 and tends to make things difficult on opponents. Add in high winds, and it would have been understandable if Kalen DeBoer leaned more heavily on the run game or if Penix’s numbers took a hit. He wasn’t quite as accurate as he usually would be. Still, he looked confident and comfortable, finding big-play receiver Rome Odunze for two touchdowns and leaning on tight end Jack Westover for a team-high seven receptions.
Defense Brings the Heat in the Second Half
Utah was having its way on offense in the first half. Bryson Barnes was in rhythm, and the Utes were mixing the run and the pass, scoring touchdowns on four straight possessions and taking a 28-24 lead into the locker room at halftime. Utah had 87 yards in the first quarter and exploded for 219 yards in the second quarter. With more than 300 yards of offense in the first half, the concerns about the Huskies’ defense were all coming to roost and looked like they could cost Washington its perfect record. The defense completely shifted in the second half, locking down the run and turning over the Utes offense with a pick of Barnes. Utah had only 60 yards in the third quarter and just 16 in the fourth quarter, with another Barnes interception ending the contest. The inconsistent tackling is still an issue, and the defensive line does not appear to have quality depth, but the second half was a massive improvement.
Washington’s Overlooked Running Game
Much of the attention goes to Penix Jr. and the outstanding passing game of the Washington Huskies. That attention is well-deserved, but Washington has done an underrated job of finding balance and utilizing a solid rushing game. Dillon Johnson has proven to be a terrific running back and had another strong game, rushing for 104 yards on 23 carries, along with one touchdown. Against the physical Utes defense, those are good numbers. On the season, the Huskies average 4.7 yards per carry, including 5.2 yards per rush in their last three games. That places them just outside the top 30 in rushing average. For an offense with the explosive aerial power of Washington, having a competent running game is incredibly important, and it’s a key reason they beat Utah and moved to 10-0.
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