When Washington needed a big throw from Michael Penix Jr., he came through, delivering a game-clinching pass to Rome Odunze. Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws a pass during the first half against the Washington Huskies at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically speaking, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. didn’t have a great game on Saturday against Oregon State. But when the Huskies needed a big play from Penix, he showed why he’s a Heisman candidate.

Nursing a 22-20 lead with 1:58 remaining, Washington faced a third-and-three. By the book, the play in that situation is to run. Since the Beavers didn’t have a time-out remaining, the worst-case scenario for the Huskies would have been to punt, giving Oregon State a little more than a minute to drive most of the field to get into field goal range. Still, with the clock stopping to set the chains on first downs and the Beavers needing only a field goal, that would have been a lot of pressure on Washington’s defense.

The Huskies, though, decided to roll the dice. They shifted into an empty backfield, with four receivers lined up to Penix’s right and one receiver, Rome Odunze, lined up to the left of the southpaw quarterback. An incomplete pass would give Oregon State an extra 40 seconds, while a completion would effectively end the game. Fortunately for the Huskies and their fans, the latter option is what happened.

Penix zipped a pass to Odunze, who got just enough separation against cornerback Jermod McCoy to secure the catch.

Penix’s game-clinching performance got the attention of college football fans.

Odunze caught seven passes for 102 yards against Oregon State and caught both of Penix’s touchdown passes. So, even if it wasn’t Penix’s strongest overall game of the year, his connection with Odunze was as good as it’s been all season.

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