SEATTLE — While he’s had one big game after another, Rome Odunze can see not all is right with the offense for No. 3 Washington.
It hasn’t looked quite right since Odunze caught the winning touchdown to beat Oregon in October — the same team the Huskies will see in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday.
“I think we need to clean a lot of things up,” Odunze said. “In several different moments we’re not able to execute and move the ball. It comes down to our attitude and effort on every single play and they need to improve immediately.”
Ask around and you’ll get different answers from the Huskies about where things stand on the offensive side heading into a second meeting with the fifth-ranked Ducks.
Odunze expressed his worries following Washington’s 24-21 win over Washington State on Saturday that completed the first 12-0 regular season in Pac-12 history even as the conference is ready to break apart. But it was also the second straight game and third in the past six that the Huskies were held under 25 points.
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was more dismissive of the concerns, while offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and head coach Kalen DeBoer fell somewhere in the middle.
“I feel like we played good complementary football toward the end of the game, but for the offensive side of the ball, we’ve got to play better. And we will,” Penix said after the Apple Cup. “I trust and believe in everybody on that side of the ball. We just look forward to the next opportunity. But at the same time, we understand that we’ve got to play better.”
No matter the actual concern level among those involved, there’s no debating that Washington hasn’t carved up defenses with the ease it displayed leading up to the 36-33 win over Oregon on Oct. 14.
The Huskies know the offense must get better in short order.
Penix put himself at the top of the Heisman Trophy list with his performance in the first meeting against Oregon, only to see his numbers slowly diminish in the following weeks. He threw for a season-low 162 yards against Oregon State and had only 204 yards passing against Washington State.
In four of his past five games, Penix’s completion percentage has been under 58%. In the first five games of the season, his low was 72.5%. The Huskies have also been more turnover prone, with 10 of their 16 on the season coming in the final six games.
“It’s statistical evidence that it hasn’t been as effective and I know everybody worries about how much the ball is going down the field or not going down the field, but I think we also made a lot of those plays that got us some big wins,” Grubb said.
He’s right. Despite the decreased numbers, the Huskies have unquestionably been tested and to date overcome all those challenges with a lot of big plays in big moments. It’s been Odunze in the middle of a lot of those.
His touchdown catch with 1:38 left against Oregon was the game-winner. He caught two TDs and made the critical grab on the final third down to clinch the win at Oregon State.
In the Apple Cup, Odunze had two more TD catches and was responsible for the biggest run of the game, taking a reverse 23 yards on fourth and 1 to help set up the winning field goal on the final play.
“I feel like at this point we’ve proven that we’re a resilient team and that we’re willing to go through the adversity and grind out tough games,” Odunze said.