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Inside the Numbers: Washington brutally explosive through the air in Sugar Bowl win over Texas

Michael Penix continued to leave his mark on the 2023 season and make his case for his place among the top passers in the class.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Texas at Washington Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 3 Texas Longhorns made their way into the College Football Playoffs and were one second away from advancing to the final, despite the fact they did not hold a lead for the entirety of the game.

That’s because quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and the No. 2 Washington Huskies found a way to move the ball and control the game against Texas, even though the Longhorns defense was dominant against the run yet again. The Huskies did what they did best, moving the ball vertically down the field and leaning into their stable of pass catchers, nearly setting a bowl record in the process.

Washington’s total offense: 532 yards (430 passing, 102 rushing)

Usually for Texas, a key to the game defensively is to force their opponents to be one-dimensional, tee off on the passer, and create a bit of havoc. Unfortunately for the Longhorns, they managed to execute on the one-dimensional part of the plan, but that one dimension featured one of the best quarterbacks in the country operating at the top of his game.

Penix was surgical for the early part of the game, starting the game 22-25, including 12 straight spanning the second and third quarters and both of his passing touchdowns. He feasted in the deep passing game, going 7-of-11 passing for 257 yards and two touchdowns on routes longer than 15 yards, a blistering 23.4 yards-per-attempt pace. His ability to take advantage of struggles at safety and exploit the mismatches in the passing game put Texas in reaction mode early and often.

Washington was wildly explosive in the passing game, with 296 of their 430 passing yards coming on plays longer than 15 yards, including 58 on those two touchdown passes. All of that adds up to one of the worst all-time outings from a Texas defense, ninth-worst all-time, and the worst since Joe Burrow’s 471 passing yards back in Week Two of 2019.

Time of possession: Washington 36:20, Texas 23:40

The Huskies, especially in the third quarter, seemed content with holding onto a lead and trying to milk as much clock as they could, knowing that Texas could — and would — score late in the game to try and close it out. The minus-12:20 differential is one of the most lopsided time of possession deficits for Texas under Steve Sarkisian, edged out by last year’s contest against TCU Horned and the 2021 game against West Virginiaall three losses.

Washington did most of its damage to the time of possession deficit in the third quarter, with Penix and the passing game operating on all cylinders out of halftime. Of the 12-completion streak that Penix put together, 11 of them came in the third frame, going without an incompletion until the final drive of the quarter.

After Washington opened the second half with an eight-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that took 4:30 off of the clock, the Longhorns ran their first of five plays in the quarter. In need of an answer to try and arrest some of the momentum, CJ Baxter put together an eight-yard rush, but in the fight for extra yards saw the ball poked out by a Washington defender resulting in a turnover. The Huskies answered with another long scoring drive to extend the lead and take seven full minutes off of the clock.

When it was all said and done, Washington held a 6:1 time of possession ratio in the third frame for 157 total yards and a crucial 10-point cushion. Conversely, the Longhorns ran just six plays in the third frame, one of which was a punt.

With that, Texas closes the 2023 season with plenty to build on as they look forward to the move to the SEC and the 12-team playoff era. They will close the season with a top-four ranking and, portal moves depending, start the 2024 season among the top teams in the country.