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No. 2 Washington hangs on to defeat No. 3 Texas in Sugar Bowl

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NEW ORLEANS — Second-ranked Washington rode the precision passing of record-breaking quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to the lead and then held on in the final seconds for a 37-31 win over No. 3 Texas on Monday in the Sugar Bowl to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff final.

The Huskies (14-0) will face No. 1 Michigan in the national championship game on Jan. 8 in Houston. Michigan defeated No. 4 Alabama 27-20 in overtime in the day’s first national semifinal.

Penix, a Heisman Trophy finalist, passed for 430 yards and two touchdowns, and Dillon Johnson scored twice on short runs for Washington, which won its 21st straight game. Rome Odunze had 125 yards on six catches, and Ja’Lynn Polk added 122 receiving yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

Washington broke away from a 21-21 tie at halftime by dominating the third quarter, keeping possession for 12:39 while outgaining Texas 157-34. The Longhorns ran just five offensive plays in the quarter.

Quinn Ewers passed for 318 yards and a touchdown, and Texas (12-2) ran for 180 yards but could never take the lead.

The Longhorns had a final possession that began at their own 31 with 45 seconds left and no timeouts, but they drove to the Washington 12 with 15 seconds left. They lost 1 yard on a first-down pass, and then threw three straight incompletions as Washington prevailed.

The Huskies scored on their opening possession, using a 77-yard pass from Penix to Polk to set the table for a 2-yard TD run by Johnson four minutes into the game. Texas responded on its ensuing possession with a 5-yard scoring run by Jaydon Blue that tied the game at the 7:06 mark of the first quarter.

Washington retook the lead on a 1-yard run by Johnson with 13:08 to play in the second quarter.

The Longhorns answered three minutes later with a 1-yard run by defensive tackle Byron Murphy II after a muffed punt by Washington’s Germie Bernard was recovered by Texas’ Morice Blackwell Jr. at the Washington 22.

Penix found Polk for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 1:27 to play in the half to give the Huskies a 21-14 lead. That gave the Longhorns enough time to drive the field, with Ewers scrambling 21 yards and absorbing a late hit to set the table for a 3-yard TD run by CJ Baxter with 17 seconds left before halftime.

Washington added a 19-yard Penix-to-Jalen McMillan scoring pass to make it 28-21 on the opening possession of the third quarter. Grady Gross added a 26-yard field goal midway through the quarter to expand the Washington lead to 10 points.

Gross added a 40-yarder on the second snap of the fourth quarter to make it 34-21.

The Longhorns pulled to within six points on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ewers to Adonai Mitchell with 7:23 to play, but Washington drove to a 27-yard field goal with 2:40 left.

Texas’ Bert Auburn made it 37-31 with a 25-yard field goal with 1:09 on the clock.

–By Steve Habel, Field Level Media

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