Washington’s Jalen McMillan scores on a touchdown pass from Michael Penix Jr. during the third quarter of a game against Kent State on Saturday in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

Washington’s Jalen McMillan scores on a touchdown pass from Michael Penix Jr. during the third quarter of a game against Kent State on Saturday in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

Penix Jr. throws 4 TD passes, UW rolls Kent State

The Huskies open the Kalen DeBoer era with an easy 45-20 win.

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Michael Penix Jr. threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns, and Washington opened the Kalen DeBoer era with a 45-20 win over Kent State in a season opener on Saturday night.

DeBoer’s debut as Washington’s head coach was highlighted by an entertaining, innovative offense that Penix — also making his Huskies’ debut — ran flawlessly against the overmatched Golden Flashes. Penix led Washington on scoring drives on all five first-half possessions and touchdowns on the first four as the Huskies built a 31-13 halftime lead and cruised in the opener.

Only some shaky ball security kept the first half from being even more lopsided.

It was a needed debut for DeBoer, who took over at Washington following two seasons as the head coach at Fresno State. Washington’s fan base was soured by last season’s 4-8 record and ended with coach Jimmy Lake being fired in November and concluded with Washington State celebrating a blowout victory in the Apple Cup.

But whether the Huskies are as good as they showed against the Golden Flashes won’t be truly defined for another couple of weeks when No. 15 Michigan State visits on Sept. 17.

Penix completed 26 of 39 passes and his yards passing were the third-most in his career that started at Indiana before transferring to Washington. It was his second game with four or more touchdown passes.

Penix threw TDs of 32 yards to Taj Davis and 4 yards to Rome Odunze in the first half, and touchdown tosses of 13 and 10 yards to Jalen McMillian in the second half. Washington scored on its first six possessions before finally punting late in the third quarter.

Wayne Taulapapa scored on a 28-yard run for Washington’s first touchdown and Cameron Davis added a 1-yard TD plunge. Washington’s 21 first-quarter points and 31 first-half points were the most in any quarter or half since a 2019 win at Arizona where the Huskies scored 38 in the second half, including 24 in the fourth quarter.

Kent State quarterback Collin Schlee had his first pass of the season intercepted by Asa Turner. Schlee rebounded with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Devontez Walker later in the first quarter, but the Golden Flashes’ couldn’t get stops defensively to stay in the game.

Schlee finished 12 of 24 for 178 yards with two interceptions. Marquez Cooper, coming off a 1,200-yard season, was held to 36 yards rushing on 11 carries.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kent State: The Golden Flashes weren’t able to play at the speed they have in the past. Kent State averaged more than 75 plays per game last season but were able to run only 68 offensive plays against the Huskies.

Washington: The Huskies start was drastically better than last season when they lost to FCS powerhouse Montana to begin the season. Washington had just 291 total yards in that loss; it had 317 in the first half against Kent State and finished with 535.

KENT STATE TO WASHINGTON

There aren’t many connections between Kent State and Washington but two of them were in attendance on Saturday night. Mike Lude was the athletic director at Kent State from 1970-76 before moving to Washington and holding the position until 1991. Lude was in attendance along with Carol James, wife of former Kent State and Washington coach Don James. James coached at Kent State from 1971-74 before taking over at Washington in 1975.

UP NEXT

Kent State: The Golden Flashes continue their challenging start to the season at No. 9 Oklahoma next Saturday.

Washington: The Huskies host Portland State next Saturday.

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