Michael Penix Jr. has thrown five interceptions in nine games this season.
After surrendering a pick in the second quarter Sept. 10 against Portland State, Penix led a 46-yard drive in 36 seconds to close the first half with a field goal. The Huskies scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half as well.
After tossing a pair of disastrous picks in the second quarter against UCLA, Penix went 19 for 23 for 212 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
After caroming a pass off Jaxson Kirkland’s helmet and into the waiting arms of defensive back Jordan Clark for a fluky pick-six against Arizona State, Penix orchestrated four touchdowns in UW’s next five drives.
The point? UW’s redshirt junior quarterback has routinely overcome potentially cataclysmic mistakes.
So it wasn’t a surprise when, after Penix threw a pick-six and narrowly avoided another interception in the second quarter Friday, he responded by delivering an 18-play, 92-yard drive to down then-No. 23 Oregon State.
“That’s an easy one, honestly,” UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said Monday, when asked what he told Penix at halftime. “I just challenged him to do what he’s been doing all year. Don’t press when it gets tougher. He can’t try to make throws that aren’t there. When it feels difficult, remember your defense is playing good. We have to take what they give us and create when we need to create.
“For us, creating doesn’t mean forcing. Sometimes it means using your feet, getting out of the pocket, finding different outlet throws — which Mike did a couple times in the third and fourth quarter. He did a really good job of (hitting) some freebies that he had out there. Those things sound and seem really obvious and simple. But in the moment they’re a little bit harder, to convert on a 5-yard out route (after throwing an interception). So I think Mike got back to remembering, ‘If there’s no throw there and we’ve got to make it happen with the run game, we’ve got to trust that those things can happen.’”
After going 13 for 26 for 154 yards and an interception in the first half, Penix was 17 for 26 for 144 yards and a touchdown in the second — including 9 for 13 for 65 yards on the deciding drive.
After failing to finish on offense against Cal, and failing to receive an opportunity against UCLA, Penix put a persevering stamp on the 24-21 win over Oregon State.
“I just thought it was pretty cool for him personally, seeing him be in a situation at UCLA where he didn’t fully get to take advantage in the end — where he could finish and win,” Grubb said. “Now he had the chance to come back and do it for his team and take the only lead of the game for us.”
About that Cam Davis catch …
Of course, Penix may not have achieved that personal redemption if not for a diving, 6-yard grab on third-and-six from sophomore running back Cameron Davis, who extended UW’s final drive in dramatic fashion.
“I’ll be honest: in those situations I usually have my call sheet and I’ve got a couple plays with my fingers on them and I’m thinking about them,” Grubb said. “I literally paused for almost a half-second (after the play). I was like, ‘Did he fricking catch that?’ You saw the three refs coming in and circling CD [Davis] and all putting their hand up (to signal a catch). I was like, ‘That was a no-doubter.’ But I wasn’t going to give them any time. So went with a tempo play to make sure they didn’t review it.
“But it was a phenomenal catch. The ball didn’t even move. That was the most impressive part. When CD hit the ground the ball didn’t even shake. It was one of the better catches I’ve seen in a clutch moment in my life.”
It was one of many impressive moments in a breakout season for the 6-foot, 208-pound sophomore — who ranks third in the Pac-12 with 10 touchdowns, is contributing 384 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 13 catches and 100 receiving yards. He also returned three kicks for 80 yards Friday.
Davis earned his first start of the season against Oregon State, after senior Wayne Taulapapa got the nod in UW’s first eight games. Davis (11 carries, 55 yards) and Taulapapa (eight carries, 27 yards) received all of UW’s carries Friday, prompting a question about the Huskies’ constricting running back rotation.
“They’re all healthy. They’re good,” Grubb said. “I know Will [Nixon] got dinged a little bit in the game and Sammy [Sam Adams II] was a little bit sick on Wednesday. So from a reps standpoint, and confidence, CD and Wayne had really pushed to the front of the line on that stuff.”
When asked about junior Richard Newton — who contributed a 36-yard touchdown catch in the win over Cal, then didn’t receive a carry against Oregon State — Grubb said, “He hadn’t repped as much as the other two guys [in practice]. I felt just more confidence in the other guys in the pass game, too, and pass protection. But Rich had a good week. He did a good job.”
UW redshirt freshman punter Jack McCallister struggled in windy conditions Friday, dropping a snap and having the subsequent punt blocked after previously shanking an 18-yard punt. UW coach Kalen DeBoer said McCallister “has done a better job as the season has gone along of being consistent. This [wind] was a new variable that was kind of thrown at him. Fortunately we get to learn from it and still win the football game. He’ll continue to work on those opportunities.”
Through nine games, McCallister is averaging 41.2 yards on 18 punts — with four 50-plus yarders, three inside the 20-yard line and a long of 58 yards. When asked if senior Idaho State transfer Kevin Ryan might receive an opportunity against Oregon, DeBoer said: “Jack [McCallister] is still certainly the guy we’ll stick with.”
* DeBoer said junior edge Zion Tupuola-Fetui should be available against Oregon after failing to finish the Oregon State game because of a minor injury. Junior corner Julius Irvin — who contributed seven tackles and an interception in six games — is out for the season because of an injury.
* Sixth-year senior Peyton Henry was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking three extra points and a 22-yard field goal — the first game winner of his career — in the windy conditions against Oregon State.
* UW earned a No. 24 national ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 poll on Sunday. Oregon, which will host Washington at 4 p.m. Saturday, is No. 6 in the nation.