Washington passes another big test on path to possible CFP spot

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (1) catches a pass for a touchdown as Oregon State defensive back Jaden Robinson (4) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Mark Ylen)

The Washington machine will march on for another week.

The No. 5 Huskies went into Corvallis and pulled out a hard-fought 22-20 victory over No. 11 Oregon State on Saturday to stay undefeated, clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game and remain firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt.

And the Huskies improved to 11-0 despite being shut out in the second half.

On a rainy night at Reser Stadium, Washington took a 22-10 lead into halftime thanks to a pair of Michael Penix Jr. touchdown passes to Rome Odunze but picked up only three first downs in the entire second half.

That was just enough. The third of those first down conversions ultimately clinched the victory, and came courtesy of the Penix-to-Odunze connection.

Oregon State controlled play throughout the second half, leaning on the ground attack to cut into Washington’s lead. First, a Damien Martinez touchdown run made it a 22-17 score in the final minutes of the third. The Beavers then added a field goal early in the fourth, cutting UW’s lead to 22-20 with 10:40 to play.

The OSU defense then quickly forced a punt, putting the ball back with DJ Uiagalelei and the offense with the chance to take the lead. The drive started at Oregon State’s own five-yard line, but ultimately stalled near midfield.

After the Beavers turned the ball over on downs with 2:08 to play, UW faced a third-and-3 play from the Oregon State 40. Instead of running the ball to try to pick up the first down and keep the clock rolling, Washington coach Kalen DeBoer put the ball in the hands of his Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback with his favorite receiver as the intended target. They came through.

Penix delivered a perfect back-shoulder throw to Odunze for a 19-yard gain and the game-sealing first down.

It wasn’t greatest statistical performance of the season for Penix, but he made the plays when it counted. He threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and also added a score on the ground.

Those Penix touchdowns, all of which came in the first half, allowed Washington to build its lead. But there was also a special teams gaffe from Oregon State that proved costly.

The first half was played in a downpour, and that seemed to affect the Beavers’ long snapper as he launched a snap over the head of his punter and into the end zone for a safety.

Those two points proved to be the difference.

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