SEATTLE — With all the player movement through the transfer portal during the offseason, Michael Penix Jr.’s arrival at Washington was rather unheralded.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Penix has made as strong a case as anyone for Pac-12 offensive player of the year honors.
Penix can put an exclamation point on his stellar season Saturday when the 12th-ranked Huskies face Washington State in the Apple Cup. His season has been a display of dizzying numbers, stunning throws and big victories, none of which was expected to this level before the season.
“My season wouldn’t be possible without this team,” Penix said. “I don’t really talk about just myself in general. It’s always about this team, because team success would definitely put light on individual success.”
There’s been plenty of individual and team success for Penix and the Huskies, who can finish with 10 wins in the regular season by beating the Cougars and have an outside chance — albeit unlikely — of still making the Pac-12 championship game.
“At the end of the day, no matter what you do as an individual, if your team isn’t winning it’s no good,” Penix said. “Everybody in college, we’re all playing for the next level. We’re playing with our teams, trying to help our team win football games, but at the next level, especially at the quarterback position, those guys want to see winners. If you’re not a winner, it don’t matter what your individual stats are, really.”
But to go along with the nine wins for Washington are a host of impressive numbers for Penix.
The top passer, not just in the Pac-12 but in the country? It’s not Caleb Williams at USC. It’s not Bo Nix at Oregon. It’s not Jayden de Laura at Arizona.
Penix is averaging 356.5 yards per game passing, a staggering number considering there were flashes of this kind of production during his previous seasons at Indiana but no consistency. Penix started the year with eight straight games of at least 300 yards passing, saw the streak come to an end by just two yards against Oregon State, then threw for 408 yards in Washington’s upset victory at Oregon.
Penix had just five 300-yard games in his career at Indiana and threw for 4,197 total yards in 20 games with the Hoosiers. He’s already at 3,869 yards in 11 games for Washington and with two more big games — Saturday’s Apple Cup and a bowl game — Penix could top Cody Pickett’s once seemingly untouchable school record of 4,458 set in 2002.
If Penix gets to 4,000 yards passing, he would be the 14th quarterback in Pac-12 history to reach the mark.
“He brings a certain type attitude every day,” Washington wide receiver Jalen McMillan said. “His calmness; you have to kind of be calm with him. He’s obviously super talented, but he’s also really smart.”
Whether Penix returns for another season with the Huskies, his place in Washington lore was secured by his performance in the win over Oregon two weeks ago. For all the passes Penix has made during this season, his cross-field throw to Taj Davis on a 62-yard touchdown with 3:07 remaining that pulled the Huskies even at 34-34 will be tough to top.
“That’s the best throw I’ve seen Mike make in a game,” Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said. “I’ve seen him make a lot of crazy throws in practice too, but just his recognition of the coverage scheme was phenomenal, and his ability to get the ball out on time and throw the right type of ball.”
Before the season, it seemed possible Penix would return for another season at Washington. That may be out the window now with the increasing buzz about his NFL draft stock.
But there’s still the Apple Cup on the agenda.
“I’m just trying to make sure I do anything I can in my power to help this team win football games and get ready for football games, and make sure that whenever we get into those big-time moments, we just go out there and shine,” Penix said.
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