Michael Penix Jr., No. 2 Washington not interested in another runner-up finish
League: NCAA Football
Posted on: 06 Jan, 2024 at 08:08 PM
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan Against Everybody is the rallying cry for the No. 1-ranked Wolverines in the College Football Playoff National Championship game Monday night.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the runner-up in 2023 Heisman Trophy voting to LSU's Jayden Daniels, wouldn't mind borrowing the mantra as the Huskies take in Houston from the vantage point of the underdog.
"I can persevere and push through any hardship that comes my way," Penix Jr. said Saturday at CFP media day in Houston of his path to the championship game as a transfer from Indiana who rebounded from four season-ending injuries. "I just continue to lean on my faith and trust that God has a plan for me. And that's what it was all about, just trusting in God. That's what led me to being here today, just that trust and just understanding that it's a bigger plan for me that I might not know or that I might not see right now."
"I wouldn't change anything I've been through for anything. I feel like it's shaped me into the player and the person that I am today. I'm super blessed."
A southpaw passer with 4,648 yards, 35 touchdown passes this season, Penix has only 17 interceptions in 1,058 pass attempts the past two seasons in a reunion in Seattle with former Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer.
"He's never going to have any regrets," DeBoer said Saturday, previously confirming the runner-up finish in the Heisman voting might've been part of Penix's motivation on New Year's Day in the semifinal victory over Texas.
"And so no regrets when it comes to leadership and wishing he would have said something and not said it," the Washington head coach continued. "No regrets when it comes to putting in an extra hour of routes in in the summer knowing that it's going to pay off at some point in a year in a big throw, in a big moment. I think him having perspective on all of this and not having regrets with how he handles people, the different moments that come about. I know that's a bigger picture thing when I say no regrets, but it hits all the areas."
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy knows Penix from his time in the Big Ten -- most memorably a three-TD pass game and win over the Wolverines in 2020 -- and said his Heisman vote would've gone to the Huskies' QB uncontested.
"He had my Heisman vote. Not going to lie," said McCarthy, who isn't a Heisman voter. "Michael Penix, everything he's been through, all the adversity, all the injuries, just continuing to stick to the process and keep pressing on, that's something that (Michigan strength and conditioning) coach Herb (Ben Herbert) always talks about: a future favors those who press on.
"He's the epitome of that. The player he is, the touch he puts on the ball, the accuracy, the ball placement, just a tremendous quarterback and I have so much respect for him."
To be the last QB standing on Monday night, Penix is banking on his top-ranked offensive line to hold Michigan's stout pass rush at bay. But it's the Wolverines' secondary that had Penix and his receivers talking this week.
"That whole defense -- they're good. They do a lot of good things on that side of the ball. I feel like they're very well-coached and they have a lot of good players. And we do, too, obviously," Penix said, adding he's ready to ride with his side in the strength-vs-strength match.
"For me, I'm always going to believe in my guys and believe that my guys are going to be able to get the job done, no matter who we're facing. I'm super excited for it. I know the guys are super excited for it. Come Monday, I guess we'll see who had the better side."
Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze suggested "transfer the Heisman Trophy" to Penix earlier in the week at the Sugar Bowl. Instead, he envisions Penix delivering another statement -- and holding a trophy -- when the dust settles in Houston.
"Unfortunately, I feel like the media and everybody on the outside hasn't paid close enough attention," Odunze said. "He's special and he's fought through adversity, and here he is shining on the biggest stage."
--Field Level Media