Michael Penix Jr. leads No. 8 Washington against Cal

The Heisman Trophy campaign for Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is picking up steam.

Penix will look to top 400 passing yards for the fourth straight game this season when the No. 8 Huskies (3-0) open Pac-12 play against Cal (2-1, 0-0) on Saturday night in Seattle.

Penix leads the nation with 1,332 passing yards after this opening salvo: 450 yards against Boise State, 409 vs. Tulsa and 473 in last Saturday’s 41-7 road rout over Michigan State.

The 473 yards are third most in Washington history. Penix also produced the two higher amounts — 516 against Arizona and 485 against Washington State, both last season.

Penix owns four of the top five passing-yardage outputs in school history. He also is tied for second nationally with 12 touchdown passes this season.

The Indiana transfer flirted with leaving for the NFL after passing for a school-record 4,641 yards and throwing 31 touchdown passes in 2022 before deciding to return for a second season with the Huskies.

“I was saying being able to come back for another year with the same guys and offense for a second year is definitely going to be special, and it’s been special so far,” Penix said.

The Huskies will look for another huge offensive game after accumulating 713 yards of total offense against the Spartans. That was second most in school history behind a 734-yard effort against San Jose State in 1996.

Washington has three receivers with at least 300 yards. Rome Odunze leads with 419, Jalen McMillan has 311 and Ja’Lynn Polk has 300.

McMillan exited the Michigan State game with an ankle injury. His availability won’t be known until later in the week.

The Huskies have won 11 of their past 15 games against the Golden Bears, including a 28-21 road victory last season.

Cal dug itself a 17-point hole last Saturday against FCS foe Idaho before rallying for a 31-17 victory.

Sam Jackson V threw two touchdown passes and rushed for one to help fuel the comeback. Isaiah Ifanse rushed for 137 yards with lead back Jaydn Ott out with an injury sustained the previous week against Auburn.

Ott had 268 rushing yards over the first two games. Ifanse has contributed 206 in three.

No matter who is in the backfield, Golden Bears coach Justin Wilcox said the team’s performance will need to be much higher this week against the Huskies.

“We’re all going to sit up here and say we’ve got to be better,” Wilcox said. “It’s true. Now it needs to be reflected.

“The size and explosiveness — and this is not a knock on Idaho — is going to be different.”

Cal has been opportunistic with 10 takeaways (five interceptions, five fumbles) over the first three games.

That trend will have to continue if the Golden Bears harbor thoughts of producing an epic upset in Seattle.

“Our goal is three turnovers a game so we can give the ball back to the offense and they can put points on the scoreboard,” said Nohl Williams, who has a team-leading two interceptions. “We were just emphasizing winning our one-on-ones and getting off the field on third downs. After we cleaned up a couple things, we were good.”

The Golden Bears have split the past four road games in the series after losing the previous four.

–Field Level Media