Michael Penix Jr.’s four TD passes lead Washington to upset of No. 11 Michigan State

Washington's Michael Penix Jr. throws a touchdown pass past Michigan State's Chester Kimbrough on Sept. 17, 2022.
Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. throws a touchdown pass past Michigan State defensive back Chester Kimbrough on Saturday night in Seattle. The Huskies beat the No. 11 Spartans 39-28.
(Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

Michael Penix Jr. threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns, and Washington emphatically stated its case as a contender in the Pac-12 Conference with a 39-28 win over No. 11 Michigan State on Saturday night.

Penix was spectacular for three quarters in a prime-time national showcase that showed coach Kalen DeBoer’s rebuild of the Huskies (3-0) is progressing faster than expected. Washington led 29-8 at halftime and 36-14 after three quarters.

Having a star quarterback certainly helps.

Penix completed 24 of 40 passes and just missed posting the eighth 400-yard passing game in Washington history. He was at his best in the first half, completing 18 of 24 attempts for 278 yards and leading Washington to touchdowns on four of its five possessions.


Former walk-on Nicholas Barr-Mira drilled a 24-yard field goal as time expired, and UCLA escaped with a 32-31 victory over South Alabama on Saturday.

Sept. 17, 2022

It was the second-best day in Penix’s career in terms of yards passing and touchdowns, trailing only his 491 yards and five touchdowns in 2020 against Ohio State while playing for Indiana.

Ja’Lynn Polk had six catches for a career-high 153 yards and three touchdowns. Polk’s 53-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter was a resounding answer after Michigan State scored on the opening drive of the second half to pull to within 29-14.

Washington wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk celebrates after scoring a first-half touchdown Sept. 17, 2022.
Huskies wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk celebrates after scoring a first-half touchdown. He finished with six catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
(Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

Payton Thorne threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns and led a pair of quick fourth-quarter scoring drives for Michigan State that caused some nerves for the Huskies. Thorne threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Keon Coleman with 5:17 left, and the two-point conversion pulled Michigan State to within 11. But the rally was too late for the Spartans (2-1), who were stymied in the running game and whose pass defense got exposed.

It was Washington’s first win over a ranked Power Five nonconference opponent at home since the Huskies beat Michigan to open the 2001 season.


Penix and the Huskies were hot from the outset. Penix threw touchdown passes of eight yards to Polk on Washington’s opening possession and a 19-yard strike to Wayne Tualapapa on third and six in the second quarter. Penix capped his stellar first half by leading Washington on a 65-yard touchdown drive in the closing seconds of the half and scrambling from pressure to hit Polk on a 17-yard touchdown pass with four seconds left in the half.

Polk had a career-high 100 yards receiving by halftime. The Huskies rolled up 322 yards to just 90 for the Spartans in the first 30 minutes.

Bo Nix accounted for five touchdowns, and No. 25 Oregon won 41-20 over No. 12 Brigham Young for its 21st consecutive victory at Autzen Stadium.

Sept. 17, 2022


Michigan State played without starting wide receiver Jayden Reed and starting defensive tackle Jacob Slade. Washington was without starting safety Asa Turner, and left tackle Jaxson Kirkland remained out following offseason ankle surgery.

The takeaway

Michigan State: The Spartans had the worst pass defense in the nation a season ago. And while there was hope through the first two games that it had improved, Michigan State’s secondary was completely exposed by Washington. The Spartans surrendered nearly 400 yards passing in just three quarters. Washington’s first punt came in the final minute of the third quarter.

Washington: The Huskies’ run defense deserves a ton of recognition: Michigan State finished with just 42 yards rushing. The better judge of how Washington did was holding the combo of Jerek Broussard and Jalen Berger to 30 yards in 17 carries. Michigan State averaged 228.5 yards rushing over the first two games.

Up next

Michigan State: The Spartans host Minnesota to open Big Ten Conference play next Saturday.

Washington: The Huskies open Pac-12 play next Saturday by hosting Stanford.