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Huskies Make Short Work of Longhorns, Win Alamo Bowl

The UW never trails in beating Texas in its backyard.
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Deep in the heart of Texas, the only thing that went wrong for the University of Washington football team on Thursday night at the Alamo Bowl was the season ended.

Capping a magical first-year run under Kalen DeBoer's lead, the Huskies were alternately deceptive, opportunistic and always in control as they handed the Texas Longhorns and former UW coach Steve Sarkisian a 27-20 defeat at the Alamodome.

This UW team just wanted to keep playing, continue to pile up yards and win, win, win. 

Instead, these guys in the all-purple uniforms went home with a glossy 11-2 record — becoming just the fifth Huskies entry in school history to claim at least that many victories in a season — and closing a dazzling late-season push with a seven-game winning streak.

Quarterback Michael Penix, the cornerstone of the UW's prolific offense, was at his best on a big stage. he completed 32 of 54 passes for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns, becoming the school's all-time leading passer in a season with 4,641 yards. 

Penix was named offensive player of the game, while Husky edge rusher Bralen Trice, who had a pair of sacks, was selected defensive player of the game.

"I feel I could go out and play another game, I don't know about you guys," said Trice, seated at an interview podium and looking over at Penix and running back Wayne Taulapapa.

With a crowd of mostly Texas fans among the 62,730 on hand, with campus just 75 miles north of San Antonio and this bowl, DeBoer's staff aggressively went after the Longhorns from the first play, first by testing their game awareness. 

Penix took the snap and handed the ball to Taulapapa, who stopped and pitched the ball back to the Husky quarterback. Trickery was in progress, a flea flicker ordered up.

Under a heavy rush, Penix let fly with a pass down the left sideline and Ja’Lynn Polk, one of the UW’s native Texans, came down with the ball between defenders for a 35-yard gain.

While that opening series ended with a Penix interception, with Longhorns safety Jerrin Thompson catching it on the dive at his 27, the Huskies got the ball right back in scoring position at the 30 when UW linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio raced in to block Daniel Trejo's punt with both hands. 

The Huskies settled for Peyton Henry's 46-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with just three minutes and 16 seconds played.

The Longhorns (8-5) matched that 3-pointer with one of their own, a 30-yarder by Bert Auburn, but the game wasn't tied long.

Ten plays later, Taulapapa ran through the left side of the line, effectively stiff-armed Longhorns cornerback Ryan Watts out of the way, skipped out of Watt's desperate tackle at the 5 and scored standing up from 42 yards out. With 3:17 left in the opening quarter, the UW was ahead 10-3. 

Vince Taulapapa scores on a 42-yard touchdown run, stiff-arming Texas cornerback Ryan Watts.

Wayne Taulapapa puts a stiff-arm on Texas cornerback Ryan Watts to break free on a 42-yard touchdown run.

Taulapapa was his usual slippery, efficient self, leading all rushers with 108 yards on 14 carries.

"We knew this team couldn't be stopped," Penix said. "We were going to keep landing punches."

The score stayed that way until the final play of the half, with the teams locked in a momentary defensive struggle and trading the ball six times, before Henry added another field goal, this one from 24 yards. The Huskies took a 13-3 lead into the locker room. 

Along the way, Penix set his school record with an 11-yard pass over the middle to Rome Odunze on the way to that closing field goal. This gave the quarterback 4,460 yards at that point, two more than Cody Pickett's 2002 record that had lasted for two decades. 

There was still the second half to play. Penix already had thrown the ball 30 times, completing 16 of them for 139 yards (4,493) when the teams rested. He was just getting warmed up. The record was just a byproduct of a lot of players' efforts.

"We got takers out there, guys who go out and get the ball," the UW QB said of his receivers while discussing his new standard. "It makes it easy for me."

The Huskies were without the services of sophomore running back Cam Davis, who was on the sideline in street clothes after getting injured in practice in Texas, elevating junior Richard Newton to a more supportive rushing role. Newton ran 11 times for 44 yards. 

The UW got big performances from whomever they put in the game, while Texas seemed to stumble around offensively for the longest time.

"We couldn't find a rhythm in the first half," Sarkisian said.

Texas looked rejuvenated when it came out for the second-half kickoff, though. The Longhorns scored in six plays, on Quinn Ewers' dump-off pass to running back Jonathon Brooks that covered 34 yards. 

The UW defense, in particular linebacker Cam Bright, looked to have the angle on him on the sideline, but Brooks squirted away. At the 12:31 mark, the locals now trailed 13-10.

The Huskies responded by taking chances whenever and wherever they could to reclaim and enlarge their two-score cushion. 

On the next series, they faced fourth-and-1 from their own 32 and Penix, after moving several players around in an intricate manner, confidently dove for 2 yards to extend the drive.

"It was a big play in the game," DeBoer said, "just being able to stay in the game."

Penix capped the 13-play, 75-yard drive by sending a 6-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Taj Davis skirting past the right pylon. The UW led 20-10. 

On the ensuing drive, the Huskies lost starting cornerback Jordan Perryman temporarily to an injury while he was trying to cover Texas deep threat Xavier Worthy, but they also got exceedingly lucky after that happened. 

The Longhorns went right back to Worthy, who got a couple of steps on the UW's revamped coverage — and he dropped a sure touchdown pass as the partisan crowd in the Alamodome let out a loud groan.

Near the end of the third quarter, the Huskies faced fourth-and-2 from the Texas 47 and Penix deftly lobbed a flat pass to tight end Devin Culp, who rumbled 9 yards to easily pick up another first down.

The UW turned this gamble into points, as well, with Penix next finding wide receiver Jalen McMillan alone in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass and a healthy 27-10 advantage. There was still 13:08 remaining in the game.

McMillan led all receivers in the game with 8 catches for 58 yards.

Texas picked up another score from Brooks, who powered up the middle to reach the end zone from 3 yards out to make things a little more interesting. With 9:50 left, the Longhorns pulled within 27-17.

With 1:40 left, they added Auburn's 26-yard field goal to creep back to 27-20. There was no panic on the Husky sideline.

Kalen DeBoer holds up the Alamo Bowl trophy after beating Texas.

Kalen DeBoer holds up the Alamo Bowl trophy in the postgame celebration. 

With that, the UW ran down the clock and held Texas on a final possession, accepted the Alamo Bowl trophy, said good bye to 14 seniors and prepared to head home to Montlake.

They left knowing they had turned in a season for the ages and, for most Huskies, that spring football practice was just four months away. 

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