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‘What a game’: Washington beats Oregon in wild Pac-12 send-off — PHOTOS

Updated December 1, 2023 - 10:24 pm

As the final seconds expired, a purple wave began to roll across the field at Allegiant Stadium.

Seconds earlier, No. 3 Washington faced third-and-9 with the prospect of giving the ball back to No. 5 Oregon and its Heisman candidate quarterback Bo Nix with just enough time for a miracle.

Dillon Johnson, Washington’s junior running back, had no intention of giving Oregon even a glimmer of hope.

He took the handoff through the hole, burst into the second level of the Ducks’ defense and then — once he’d passed the first-down marker — went down as Huskies poured onto the field.

“What a game,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “Didn’t expect anything less.”

Perfection was achieved under the lights of Allegiant Stadium on Friday, as Washington defeated its longtime Pacific Northwest rival Oregon 34-31 in the Pac-12 championship game, the final game in the conference’s long history as currently configured.

It’s Washington’s first title since 2018, and its 18th overall, second-most in the Pac-12’s history.

The Huskies (13-0) have almost certainly clinched a place in the College Football Playoff. Both losses suffered by the Ducks (11-2) this season have been against Washington, by a combined six points.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed 27 of 39 passes for 319 yards and an interception. His lone touchdown was a 2-yard toss to junior tight end Quentin Moore with 2:44 remaining to take a two-possession lead. Penix was named Pac-12 championship game MVP.

Johnson had 28 carries for 152 yards, punctuated by his game-sealing 18-yard rush. Wide receivers Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze — a Las Vegas native and former Bishop Gorman star — had 131 and 102 yards, respectively.

Nix was 21-for-34 for 239 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. However, the Ducks were only 3 of 10 on third downs.

“That was a tough one,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. “You know, our guys fought for the entire game. Four quarters. It just can’t start off slow against a really good team.”

Washington entered the game as a 10-point underdog by kickoff, but it led 10-0 before Oregon picked up a first down. After a field goal on the Huskies’ opening drive, they took advantage of the short field on their next possession, as Johnson took a toss left to the end zone from 5 yards out, escorted by left tackle Troy Fautanu, a former Liberty standout.

Oregon finally picked up a first down with 14:04 left in the second quarter, and the Ducks kicked a 35-yard field goal. Washington and Penix responded immediately, and sophomore Germie Bernard, another former Liberty star, took a 4-yard touch-pass from Johnson into the end zone to extend the Huskies’ lead to 17-3.

Washington tacked on another field goal for a 20-3 lead, but Oregon got a huge momentum swing before halftime.

Nix led a 75-yard drive with just 1:39 remaining in the second quarter, and tight end Terrance Ferguson’s one-handed catch in the back of the end zone with nine seconds remaining cut the deficit to 20-10 at halftime.

Nix then found Ferguson again early in the third quarter, this time on fourth-and-goal from the 2, to pull the Ducks within 20-17.

Penix and Nix exchanged interceptions, and Washington failed to convert a big fourth down, setting up a 6-yard touchdown run for Oregon running back Jordan James to give Oregon its first lead of the game, 24-20, with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

Washington started the fourth quarter with a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Johnson, his second of the game, to take the lead back. The Huskies took a two-possession lead with a 6:20 drive capped off by Moore’s touchdown.

Nix answered with a 63-yard touchdown to junior receiver Traeshon Holden, who tiptoed into the end zone, but Washington recovered the onside kick and picked up two first downs, punctuated by Johnson’s 18-yard run to seal the win and the conference title.

“Just proud of our guys,” DeBoer said, “and the way they continue to just be resilient and find a way.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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