SEATTLE — In an all-time great rivalry game, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 1 minute, 33 seconds left and Oregon missed a game-tying field goal as time expired, as the No. 7-ranked Huskies won 36-33 to take control of the Pac-12 title race.
Ducks coach Dan Lanning, whose three failed fourth-down attempts backfired, said he has only himself to blame.
“I think this game is 100% on me,” he said.
After trailing by 11 late in the third quarter, No. 8 Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) came back to take a 33-29 lead, and following a goal-line stand with 6:33 left to play, the Ducks had a chance to put the game away. They picked up two first downs and drove 51 yards, but facing fourth-and-3 from the Washington 47-yard line with 2:11 left, Lanning tried to end the game on the spot. Instead, a pass from quarterback Bo Nix fell incomplete, setting the high-powered Huskies up with a short field for the go-ahead score.
Lanning said he felt comfortable going for it because the defense had been playing well in the second half and the Ducks had a play-call they were confident would work.
“That being said, it didn’t work,” Lanning said. “So obviously it will be second-guessed.”
Oregon’s missed fourth-down attempt was its third of the game. Trailing 22-18, the Ducks missed on fourth-and-goal from the 3 as time expired in the first half. Then, trailing 29-18 in the third, Nix threw another incomplete pass on fourth-and-3 from the Washington 8.
“The one before half is where you can say let’s take that field goal,” Lanning said. “And it’s something I’m going to assess. Go evaluate for me. We checked to see if we liked the look. We liked the look before we ran the play — we just didn’t execute.”
Against a Washington team that came into the game averaging 46 points per game, there also was a sense that field goals might not be enough to keep pace — especially after the Huskies scored touchdowns on four of five drives in the middle of the game.
“I think that a lot of those coaches that we face, including today, they’re aggressive by nature. We would expect that whether it was against us or not,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “But there’s no doubt our defense has to defend probably the more aggressive style offenses because the other team knows our offense puts the points on the board.”
In the first top-10 matchup in the more-than-a-century-old rivalry, Penix improved his Heisman Trophy chances with a memorable final drive. He finished 22-of-37 for 302 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception.
“If there’s one that I’ve been a part of that was bigger or better, I can’t think of it right now,” DeBoer said. “This moment right now is something that’s really special for our program.”
Nix nearly matched Penix throw-for-throw. He finished 33-of-44 for 337 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.