Sugar Bowl: Washington Huskies hold off furious Texas Longhorns rally, punch CFP title game ticket 37-31
AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns rallied in the fourth quarter and had a chance to take the lead late, but the Washington Huskies are used to playing tight games and didn’t waver.
The Huskies won their 10th consecutive game by 10 points or less 37-31 in the Sugar Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal, Monday at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Washington (14-0) will take on Michigan for the CFP National Championship Game on Jan. 8 at NRG Stadium in Houston with the win. Texas’ season is over at 12-2.
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers took the Longhorns down the field with 0:45 left in the game, and on the heels of a 41-yard pass to Jordan Whittington, had his team on Washington’s 13-yard line. On fourth-and-11, Ewers tried to hit Adonai Mitchell in the end zone but Makell Esteen knocked the pass away as time expired.
“We all played our hearts out,” Ewers said. “I’m proud of the way we attacked each week, and the opportunity to have to even play here, we’re all thankful for this opportunity. I know most of y’all didn’t believe we’d be here right now, and we’re going to focus on the opinions in our four walls and continue to build.”
An injury to Washington running back Dillon Johnson on third down saved the Longhorns about 35 seconds, stopping the clock and causing the Huskies to punt it away with 0:50 left. Texas didn’t have any timeouts left, so had the clock not stopped due to the injury, Washington could have let the clock run and punted with around 0:15 left. That, and a kick catch interference penalty, helped set the stage for the Longhorns rally that fell 13 yards short.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. came into the game as the nation’s most productive passer and showed everybody why. Penix threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns as the Huskies outgained Texas 532-498.
Penix completed 29 of 38 passes and was a big-play machine for the Huskies, completing six passes over 20 yards including a 77-yard bomb to Ja’Lynn Polk a minute into the game to set up the game’s first touchdown. Penix hit Rome Odunze for a 52-yard gain in the second quarter and a 32-yard pass to Odunze to set up a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Odunze had 125 yards on six catches while Polk ended with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Ewers had a slow start but came on strong in the latter portions. He ended the game 24 of 43 passing for 318 yards with a touchdown, a 1-yard pass to Mitchell in the fourth quarter to cut Washington’s lead to 34-28 with 7:23 remaining.
Ja’Tavion Sanders caught six passes for 75 yards while Whittington tallied 70 yards on four catches. CJ Baxter rushed for 64 yards on nine carries and Jaydon Blue ran for 59 yards on nine carries. Texas rushed for 180 yards on 28 attempts.
Washington held the ball for 36:20 and ran 70 plays. Texas ran 71 plays and had the ball for 23:40.
Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian put things in perspective after the game.
“When you get into sports, all you can do is put forth maximum effort in your preparation, get yourself in the right frame of mind and play as hard as you can,” he said. “In the end, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. It should build character and help these guys in whatever they go do in life.”
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