Sep 10, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) attempts a pass during the second half against the Portland State Vikings at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Washington encounters giant-killer Stanford

A feeling of excitement not felt for some time in Seattle is building for the Washington Huskies football program, which debuted in the 2022 NCAA Top 25 rankings at No. 18 this week following a 39-28 win over last week’s No. 11, Michigan State.

This Saturday, the Huskies (3-0) look to keep winning with the start of their Pac-12 season, hosting Stanford at Husky Stadium in a night game.

Two years ago, Washington couldn’t play for the Pac-12 championship because its roster was ravaged by COVID cases. Last season, the team finished 4-8 overall and head coach Jimmy Lake was fired in November over an incident involving a player on the team.

But this season looks different. Washington has 136 points scored in its first three games, even though the first two were at home against Kent State and FCS Portland State.

“Understanding that there is so many things that could have been even better than what happened Saturday night,” Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer said. “So I know we’ve got a group of guys that felt that way at the beginning, that this could be where we’re at. And now they see, stacking days on top of days, practices on top of practices and now games on top of games. They’re in a good spot. But we can’t get full of ourselves.”

Washington is led by quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., a transfer from Indiana. Penix has passed for 10 touchdowns and won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after he passed for 397 yards, the eighth-highest single-game total in school history, against Michigan State.

Stanford (1-1) is coming off a bye last weekend. The Cardinal has already played a conference game, a 41-28 loss at home to now No. 7 USC. Saturday is the second of three consecutive games against potential Top 25 teams, with Washington this week and current No. 15 Oregon on Oct. 1.

According to Stanford Athletics, the Cardinal have 29 wins against nationally-ranked opponents under head coach David Shaw. Five of those have come against Washington, and Stanford is 5-1 when facing a Huskies team ranked in the Top 25.

Shaw is 7-4 against Washington in his career. He called Washington a good football team that is playing fast and with a lot of confidence.

“Not an insurmountable task, but at the same time, there’s a level of football that we can play at that’s much higher than we’ve played at so far this year,” Shaw said. “So that’s our focus.”

The Cardinal are led in rushing by running back E.J. Smith, who has 206 yards and three touchdowns in two games. But he’s not expected to play Saturday due to a health-related matter.

Shaw hopes Smith can play the following week at Oregon.

Quarterback Tanner McKee has three touchdown passes and three interceptions in two games thus far this season. He’s completed 42 of 62 passes for 528 yards.

Head-to-head, the Huskies and Cardinal are 44-44-4 against each other.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Portland State Vikings wide receiver Beau Kelly (13) escapes the grasp of Washington Huskies defensive back Asa Turner (20) and linebacker Kamren Fabiculanan (13) after a reception during the first half at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Washington rolls to easy win over Portland State

Michael Penix Jr. threw for 324 yards, wideouts Jalen McMillan and Giles Jackson both went over 100 yards in receptions, and Washington pounded visiting FCS opponent Portland State 52-6 in a nonconference game at Seattle on Saturday afternoon.

Coming off a 45-20 romp over Kent State in the opener last week, Washington (2-0) continued to put up big offensive numbers at the expense of the Vikings (0-2) as the Huskies prepare to host nationally ranked Michigan State next week.

Penix threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Ja’Lynn Polk and 84 yards to McMillan en route to a 31-3 halftime advantage. Cameron Davis and Wayne Taulapapa ran in from 8 and 6 yards out, respectively, for Washington’s two other touchdowns in the half.

Will Nixon had a 4-yard TD run and Davis scored for a second time, this one from 3 yards out, in the third period, before Washington completed its scoring on a 2-yard dash by Denzel Boston with 5:12 remaining in the game.

Penix finished 18-of-25 passing with one interception. McMillan totaled 127 yards on just four catches, while Giles hauled in six balls for 105 yards.

Taulapapa was the game’s leading rusher with 94 yards on 12 carries. Davis (70) and Richard Newton (59) also topped 50 yards rushing for the hosts, who outrushed Portland State 241-81.

Peyton Henry added a 32-yard field goal for Washington, while Gianni Smith did all the scoring for Portland State with a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter and a 40-yarder in the third.

Jalynnee McGee was the biggest offensive force for the Vikings with 58 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Dante Chachere threw for 50 yards on 6-of-17 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Washington outgained the visitors 617-131.

The Huskies’ win was their third straight by a total margin of 145-22 in their all-time rivalry with Portland State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) passes against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the first quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Huskies try to take another step vs. Portland State

Washington aims to capitalize on momentum built in new coach Kalen DeBoer’s debut when the Huskies host Portland State in a nonconference game Saturday afternoon.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns as Washington (1-0) opened with a 45-20 home romp over Kent State last week. The four touchdown passes were one more than the Huskies accumulated in the first three games last season before DeBoer and Penix arrived.

With 15-ranked Michigan State on deck, Deboer would like to see his club take another step in its development over last year’s 4-8 edition, albeit at the expense of this week’s FCS opponent.

“This is only the beginning, right?” he said in downplaying the opening win. “This is a journey that we’re on.”

Penix, who threw for just four TD passes (with seven interceptions) in five games at Indiana last season, got plenty of help in front of his new fans. Wayne Taulapapa and Cameron Davis rushed for touchdowns, while Jalen McMillan (two), Rome Odunze and Taj Davis hauled in his TD passes.

The Washington defense also had three interceptions — two from Asa Turner — in a vast improvement over last year’s stunning 13-7 home loss to Montana on Opening Day.

Washington has never lost to Portland State (0-1), recording wins in 2012 and 2016 by a total score of 93-16, but might be these Vikings dominated an FBS opponent in many aspects of the game last week before losing to San Jose State 21-17.

Portland State outgained the Spartans 395-288 and recorded seven sacks en route to a 17-14 lead before faltering in the final two minutes.

Vikings coach Bruce Barnum wasn’t satisfied with a near-upset as the Big Sky Conference club prepares to face a Pacific-12 Conference foe for the second year in a row. Portland State lost 44-24 at Washington State in Week 2 last September.

“I told the team: Don’t accept ‘you played well’ from this. Win the game,” he insisted. “That’s what we need to do. We need to clean up the mistakes and win those games.”

Sophomore quarterback Dante Chachere, making his first collegiate start, passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for a team-leading 83 additional yards in the defeat. Beau Kelly caught nine passes for 133 yards.

–Field Level Media

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kalen DeBoer era opens at Washington vs. Kent State

After a tumultuous 2021 season, Washington hopes new coach Kalen DeBoer leads them back to some a sense of normalcy Saturday night as they open the season against an apparently overmatched visiting Kent State.

Yet, a year ago, Washington’s season launched with a stunning 13-7 loss to Montana and then-coach Jimmy Lake and the Dawgs never regained their footing on the way to a 4-8 season.

DeBoer, formerly at Fresno State, is the fourth Washington head coach in four seasons. Chris Petersen departed after the 2019 season and was replaced by Lake — but after the terrible start, Lake was under fire all season and was terminated in November following a sideline incident in which he was seen shoving one of his players — and was replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Bob Gregory for the rest of the 2021 season.

Last week DeBoer named Michael Penix Jr., a transfer from Indiana, as the starting quarterback, and Wayne Taulapapa, a graduate transfer from Virginia, as the No. 1 running back.

Taulapapa, DeBoer said, “might be one of the most mature guys on our football team. It means a lot to him,” and cited his 27 career starts and ability to handle rushing, receiving and blocking duties well.

A win for the Huskies would be the 400th in school history at home. Washington was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 this season in a conference media poll.

Kent State won the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division title last season, finishing 7-7 after a 52-38 loss to Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Kent State was picked to finish second in the MAC East in a media poll. The program has a unique connection with Washington, in that legendary Huskies head coach Don James was Kent State’s head coach for four seasons before he arrived to turn the Huskies into a West Coast power for most of his tenure (1975-92).

“The football gods, they don’t miss,” Kent State head coach Sean Lewis said, noting that he keeps a book about James in his office and uses it for coaching guidance.

“We’ll get a real test here,” Lewis said, “and we’re going to see where we’re at.”

The Golden Flashes have a loaded nonconference schedule starting with a trip west to Seattle for their first-ever meeting with Washington, followed by a trip to No. 9 Oklahoma next week, and a Sept. 24 visit to No. 3 Georgia.

Washington follows the opener with a game against FCS team Portland State and then hosts No. 15 Michigan State before turning to Pac-12 play against Stanford – with all four game at Husky Stadium.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) drops back to throw a pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Washington names Michael Penix Jr. starting QB

Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. has won the quarterback competition at Washington.

Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer announced Tuesday that Penix will be under center for the Sept. 3 season opener in Seattle against Kent State.

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Penix had been battling sophomore Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard for the QB1 role.

Penix appeared in 20 games over four seasons with the Hoosiers from 2018-21. He was a team captain in 2020 and 2021 and compiled as 12-5 record as a starter, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

He completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 4,197 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, also rushing for 165 yards and six scores.

DeBoer, who is in his first season with the Huskies after two seasons as the head coach at Fresno State, was Penix’s offensive coordinator and position coach at Indiana in 2019.

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; A detailed view of the San Francisco 49ers helmet logo at midfield at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny dies at 93

Legendary Pro Football Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny, a major star in the 1950s, died recently in Nevada, the Hall of Fame announced Thursday. He was 93.

The Hall of Fame said McElhenny died of natural causes last Friday.

McElhenny was a six-time Pro Bowl running back who played 13 NFL seasons, including nine with the San Francisco 49ers from 1952-60. He was nicknamed “The King,” and is a member of the All-1950s decade team.

A first-round pick by San Francisco in the 1952 draft, McElhenny rushed for 5,281 yards and 38 touchdowns, caught 264 passes for 3,247 yards and 20 scores, accumulated 1,921 kickoff return yards and 920 punt return yards in 143 career games. He returned two punts for scores.

He also played for the Minnesota Vikings (1961-62), New York Giants (1963) and Detroit Lions (1964).

McElhenny was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970. His No. 39 was retired by the 49ers in 1971.

“Hugh McElhenny was a threat in all phases of the game offensively — rushing, pass receiving and as a kick and punt returner,” Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “His all-around talent — obvious to pro football scouts when Hugh was still a teenager — will be celebrated and preserved forever in Canton.”

Five of McElhenny’s Pro Bowl berths came during his tenure with the 49ers. He was part of the “Million Dollar Backfield” in the mid-1950 with quarterback Y.A. Tittle and fellow running backs Joe “the Jet” Perry and John Henry Johnson.

Prior to his NFL career, McElhenny starred at Washington from 1949-51 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

He produced a single-game school rushing record that still stands with 296 yards against Washington State in 1950. Overall, he rolled up 1,107 rushing yards for the Huskies in 1950.

His career rushing-yardage total of 2,499 ranks sixth in Huskies’ history.

McElhenny was a first-team All-America selection in 1951.

–Field Level Media

Sep 22, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland (51) in action during the first quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Washington OT Jaxson Kirkland opts out of NFL draft

Washington offensive lineman Jaxson Kirkland has decided to opt out of this year’s NFL draft because of an ankle injury, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

Kirkland made his decision after learning that the ankle injury was more serious than initially believed. He is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday, ESPN reported.

The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder intends to petition the NCAA to play next season before turning his attention to the 2023 NFL draft.

Kirkland made the All-Pac-12 first team in each of the past two seasons and was considered to be one of the top offensive linemen in this year’s draft class. He started 10 games at left tackle this season and missed two games due to injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Trent McDuffie (22) participates in pregame warmups against the Montana Grizzlies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Washington CB Trent McDuffie declares for NFL draft

Washington Huskies junior cornerback Trent McDuffie is entering the 2022 NFL Draft.

The three-year starter and 2021 All-Pac-12 first-team selection made the announcement Monday. He’s projected as a first-round pick by most outlets.

“We decided it was the best time for me to take this next step on this new adventure,” McDuffie told Yahoo Sports.

McDuffie registered 94 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 28 games with the Huskies. He was the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and a second-team all-conference pick in 2020.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach interim Jake Dickert reacts after a play during a game against the Brigham Young Cougars in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. BYU won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

WSU heads into Apple Cup vs. Washington with plenty at stake

After beating lowly Arizona last week, Washington State interim coach Jake Dickert said last Friday, “There’s still a lot to play for.”

He was alluding to the Apple Cup rivalry against Washington and the Cougars’ impending bowl game.

A day later, when Oregon lost, Dickert could add a potential Pac-12 North championship to the list of things his team could still accomplish.

With a WSU victory in Seattle on Friday, and an Oregon State win over Oregon on Saturday, the Cougars would tie for first place atop the division with the Ducks and Beavers. Washington State would hold the tiebreaker with a 4-1 record in divisional play and would advance to the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 3.

That would be quite an achievement considering coach Nick Rolovich was fired last month for not following the state’s COVID-19 mandate.

“They never quit on themselves,” Dickert said of the players. “After everything happened with the coaching change, the captains came together and said, ‘We will change the momentum. We will move forward, and we will keep pressing.’

“I told them, ‘Do it for you guys, do it for the bond you formed in the locker room and do it for what you guys have accomplished here.’”

Moreover, the way the Cougars’ players have responded under Dickert’s leadership has led to growing sentiment that WSU would be hard-pressed not to remove the “interim” tag from his title, particularly if they beat the Huskies. Washington State is 2-2 under Dickert, with the two losses coming to BYU and Oregon (a combined 18-4 this season).

One accomplishment that has eluded these Cougars is a victory in the Apple Cup. They have lost seven straight games in the series, all by double digits, and have not won in Seattle since 2007.

“I want to win this game so bad,” said sixth-year WSU linebacker Jahad Woods, “not only for the teammates that I have now and the coaches I have now, but for my teammates that didn’t win it these past five years that I’ve been a part of playing in the Apple Cup.

“It’s something that’s super important to me and I’m not going to take this week lightly.”

The Huskies (4-7, 3-5) have failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2009 and coach Jimmy Lake was fired.

So, it’s a pair of interim coaches leading their teams into the 113th meeting of the cross-state rivals (Washington holds a 74-32-6 edge).

Bob Gregory, in his eighth season on the Huskies’ staff, leads Washington as head coach for the third game, having come close against Arizona State and Colorado, but falling by one late possession each time.

He is familiar with both sides of the rivalry, having played linebacker at WSU (1984-86).

“We’re all mercenaries anyway as coaches,” Gregory said when asked about his allegiance. “Whoever pays us and puts food on our table for our kids, that’s who we’re rooting for.”

Gregory was also asked about the plan for heralded freshman quarterback Sam Huard, who could still retain his redshirt even if he played Friday against the Cougars. Might Huard start?

“I could (tell you) but I’d have to kill you,” Gregory joked. “So, no. I’m not going to divulge … no injuries, no quarterback updates.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2021; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes running back Ashaad Clayton (0) and tight end Brady Russell (38) celebrate after a fourth quarter touchdown carry against the Northern Colorado Bears at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado, Washington look for positives in disappointing seasons

Colorado and visiting Washington had hopes of challenging for a Pac-12 championship this season, but instead will meet on Saturday to wind down what has been a disappointing year for both teams in Boulder, Colo.

The Huskies (4-6, 3-4 Pac-12) are dealing with some controversy ahead of the game. Washington fired head coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday after a little more than a season in the position.

Huskies defensive coordinator Bob Gregory was named the interim coach.

Lake was suspended for a game for a sideline incident during a loss to Oregon on Nov. 6. He didn’t coach in the loss to Arizona State last week and Washington athletic director Jen Cohen met with Lake on Sunday night and fired him.

Lake was elevated to head coach before the 2019 season and led the Huskies to a pandemic-shortened 3-1 record but the team has regressed in his second season. The sideline incident — he appeared to strike linebacker Ruperake Fuavai — as well as past allegations of being physical with players in 2019 and the poor on-field performance were all factors, Cohen said Sunday.

“There wasn’t one factor that led me to this decision. Wins and losses, no fan support (are some) of many factors that you’re considering when you’re making a decision this impactful,” Cohen said.

The Huskies need to focus on Colorado (3-7, 2-5) to keep their hopes alive of becoming eligible to play in a bowl game. Washington needs to beat the Buffaloes and Washington State in the final game to become bowl eligible.

Colorado won’t reach six wins no matter what happens in the last two games. The Buffaloes had a strong start, winning their opener and nearly beating No. 6 Texas A&M in the second game, but have only managed wins over Arizona and Oregon State in double overtime.

Last week Colorado led at UCLA 20-7 before the Bruins reeled off 37 straight points. Now, the Buffaloes are in the role of spoiler.

“We’ve got some seasons to ruin still if we want to,” tight end Brady Russell said. “That’s some motivation for sure. And just pride also. That’s big, going out with some dignity. I know we don’t want to go out like we did (Saturday) for the rest of the season. That’s embarrassing.”

Colorado will play the last two games without linebacker Joshka Gustav and wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig after both suffered season-ending injuries at UCLA.

–Field Level Media