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Washington held off a late Texas comeback for a thrilling 37-21 win in the Sugar Bowl as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns to help the Huskies advance to the national championship game against Michigan.

The two remaining teams in the CFP will face off in Houston, Texas, on January 8, in what will be the most decisive Div. I game of the season. 

‘The defense… they hold themselves to a high standard and they hold themselves accountable in every situation,’ said Penix Jr., the runner-up to this year’s Heisman Trophy award. He completed 29 of his 38 passing attempts against the Longhorns.  

‘[…] I’m not no quitter. I’m not gonna say I was gonna quit. You know it got hard for me at times, but I leaned on the ones I love the most… I gotta thank the man above. I gotta thank God.’

For Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian, Monday night’s matchup was especially hard, considering that he began his head-coaching career at Washington in 2009, taking over an 0-12 team and going 34-29 before leaving in 2014 for USC, where he was ultimately fired in his second season (2015).

Washington holds off late Texas comeback for THRILLING 37-31 Sugar Bowl win as QB Michael Penix Jr. tosses for 430 yards and two touchdowns to help Huskies advance to title national game vs Michigan

Michael Penix Jr. completed 29 of his 38 passing attempts to beat Texas in New Orleans, LA

The Huskies drew first blood in New Orleans when Washington running back Dillon Johnson had a two-yard rushing touchdown, four minutes into the first quarter. Then, kicker Grady Gross converted the extra point – his first of a total of seven attempts.

The Longhorns, however, answered right back, as running back Jaydon Blue made a 5-yard run into the end zone to level the score, 7-7. It took seven plays and 75 yards in 3:55 minutes for the Longhorns to finally get on the scoreboard. Kicker Bert Auburn ensured to convert the first of three extra points. 

Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game, two minutes into the second quarter, to put Washington in the lead once again, 14-7, before Texas lineman Byron Murphy II took a handoff and muscled across the goal line for a one-yard touchdown, as the Longhorns levelled for the second time in the first half. 

Then, Penix Jr. threw a 29-yard touchdown pass – his first of the night – to wideout Ja’Lynn Polk with 1:27 to go before the half. The Huskies thought they would enter the break with the lead, only for C.J. Baxter to rush for a 3-yard touchdown run for a 21-21 scoreline as both teams shared honors even after two quarters. 

Wide receiver Jalen McMillan gave Washington the lead, four-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter, after a 19-yard pass from Penix Jr. Gross converted the extra point – his fourth of the night – before a Texas fumble gave the Huskies some breathing space, although they couldn’t pounce, resulting in only a field goal to increase their lead to 31-21.

Washington started with the ball in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert in their first third down of the last 15 minutes, as Gross converted a 40-yard field goal to increase the score by two touchdowns (34-21). 

With 7:23 remaining, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers finally had his first touchdown pass of the night to Adonai Mitchell for a yard, before Auburn converted the extra point to diminish Washington’s lead to 34-28. 

Washington responded with a 27-yard field goal through Gross with 2:40 to go as they upped their lead by three for the score to be 37-28. With 1:09 left, Auburn’s 25-yard field goal brought Texas back to make it a one-touchdown game. 

In a frantic finish to conclude the second CFP semifinal of the night, Ewers and the remainder of the Longhorns offense had four shots at the end zone after getting to Washington’s 12-yard line with 15 seconds left. But, Ewers missed on the last three. The final throw was a fade to a well-covered Adonai Mitchell that sailed long.

In Texas’ first CFP appearance and final football game as a member of the Big 12 before it goes to the Southeastern Conference, Ewers passed for 318 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn’t enough against Penix Jr and his array of talented receivers. 

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