SEATTLE (AP) — From the moment he took the head coaching job in Washington, Kalen DeBoer was made aware of the importance of getting the best from his Oregon neighbors.
Now that he’s done it in his first season in charge, what happens next? How about keeping hopes alive for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game?
Coming off the upset at Oregon last week, the 15th-ranked Huskies play their final at home on Saturday against apathetic Colorado. Washington (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12, No. 17 CFP) still has an outside chance to get to Las Vegas for the conference title game, but will need some help getting there. First, the Huskies must avoid a disappointment against the Buffaloes and then get the better of Washington State next week in the Apple Cup.
“We’re becoming a pretty complete team and every week we’re closing the gap on our potential. We’ve always said anyone can beat us too,” DeBoer said. of two straight defeats and we are going to learn from these games, just as we also have wins. We have to be ready. We have a lot to do on the season in terms of the opportunities that could arise. Before thinking about the last week of the season, we have to make sure we’re focused on Colorado.
The challenge is clear. The Huskies just won on the home turf of their most hated rival and in a week will face their Washington State rival on home turf in Pullman.
It’s a perfect recipe for a crisis. In this case, Colorado (1-9, 1-6) could be the perfect opponent. The Buffaloes have lost four straight, given up at least 40 points in each of those losses, and are now tasked with trying to slow down the nation’s top passer, Michael Penix Jr. coming off his magic night against Oregon.
“From the first snap, it felt like Washington was better than Oregon on the court that day,” Colorado interim coach Mike Sanford said. “It is a monumental task for our football team to go there. And we are delighted with this task.
Penix might not have a better moment in college than his performance against Oregon. His 408 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Ducks included a flurry of highlights. Penix has moved to second on Washington’s assists list in a single season and could come one step closer to breaking a record that seemed unbreakable with a big game against Colorado.
Penix has 3,640 passing yards this season and needs just over 800 yards to surpass Cody Pickett’s school record of 4,458 yards set in 2002. Pickett set the mark in 13 games.
Colorado senior running back Alex Fontenot’s game last week against USC was a bright spot in what has otherwise been a miserable season for the Buffs. Fontenot rushed for a season-high 108 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans. It was Fontenot’s fourth career 100-yard game, but his first since Nov. 23, 2019, when he rushed for 105 yards in a win over Washington.
Fontenot saw a lot during his time in Boulder. He arrived on campus in 2017 and showed flashes of being a star in 2019 before an injury cost him the entire 2020 season.
“At this point, I can’t put myself down every game. I would just drive myself into a wall doing that,” Fontenot said. “I’m here just to enjoy the time I have, to do what I love with all my brothers, because I know I’ll probably never get that time back.”
Washington will honor 13 seniors before kickoff — 11 scholarship players and two extras — DeBoer said. It’s been a tough tenure for some of them, including three head coaches, a truncated season due to the pandemic and a brutal 4-8 campaign.
“We’ve relied on them so much over the past 12 months now to give me advice when I have questions about how things have been done in the past. Or how we’re doing with our attitude and the little things and areas that I can clean up for the team that maybe aren’t where we want them to be in sync,” DeBoer said. “They’ve been open, honest. They’ve been great.
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