Michael Penix Jr., Washington blow past No. 11 Michigan State with impressive 39-28 victory

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Michael Penix Jr. made a statement on Saturday night versus No. 11 Michigan State.

Penix had some big moments during his time at Indiana, but also dealt with an array of serious injuries. Seeking a new opportunity, Penix transferred to Washington to reunite with his old offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer.

Through three games, that partnership is thriving in Seattle.

Penix and the Huskies were dominant in a 39-28 win over the Spartans that was not as close as the final score may indicate.

Penix, who threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the win, was locked in from the start. He threw a touchdown on Washington’s first drive of the night and led the Huskies to another early in the second quarter. By halftime, Washington had built a 29-8 lead with Penix tossing three touchdown passes in the process.

That lead was just too much for a scuffling Michigan State offense to overcome. The Spartans just couldn’t get anything going on the ground, putting a ton on the shoulders of QB Payton Thorne. Thorne played relatively well, but he didn’t find much success until MSU fell behind multiple scores.

Penix, meanwhile, continued to carve up the overmatched MSU secondary. His fourth touchdown of the game was a beautiful 53-yard toss to Jalynn Polk, who found himself wide open behind the Michigan State defense.

Michigan State made the score respectable with two late touchdowns, but it was too little too late as Washington emerged with an impressive victory that will surely put the rest of the Pac-12 on notice.

UW fell off dramatically in its two seasons under Jimmy Lake, including a 4-8 record last season. The offense was especially problematic over the past two seasons, but DeBoer has engineered a quick and striking makeover. Adding a veteran quarterback like Penix has certainly helped matters, but Saturday night’s game showed that this offense has plenty of talent at the skill positions too.

Already 3-0, it looks like Washington is going to have a say in this year’s Pac-12 race. The Huskies open conference play at home against Stanford next Saturday.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., right, throws a touchdown pass against Michigan State defensive back Chester Kimbrough during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., right, throws a touchdown pass against Michigan State defensive back Chester Kimbrough during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

On the other side, Michigan State showed its No. 11 ranking was a bit inflated. MSU’s sudden emergence under Mel Tucker was one of the stories of the 2021 season, but some of the issues that were present for the Spartans last fall showed up in a big way on Saturday — pass defense chief among them. Even with some transfer additions, the secondary looked just as leaky.

The Spartans were able to hit lots of explosive plays with running back Kenneth Walker III last year, but transfers Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard have not been able to replicate that kind of production thus far. The absence of injured star receiver Jayden Reed also was felt in Saturday night’s loss.

Now 2-1, MSU has plenty to clean up with undefeated Minnesota visiting East Lansing next weekend.