Washington Huskies handle Kent State for season opening win

Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA., (Aaron Nelson / fi360 News)

Seattle, WA – The Kalen DeBoer era for the Washington Huskies began with a bang, thanks to a 45-20 victory over the Kent State Golden Flashes. The season opening win is a much better result for Washington, compared to the disastrous loss to Montana that opened the 2021 campaign. Starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr hushed doubters with a great game through the air, while safety Asa Turner snagged two of the defenses three interceptions. The win is a positive sign moving forward, as the Huskies look to establish a new identity with a new head coach.

The Washington offense last season under John Donovan lacked creativity, and more importantly, an ability to move the football. With a new coaching staff, the offense moved the ball in a balanced manner against Kent State. Transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr aired the ball out to ten different receivers, finding talented wideouts Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan often. Washington used a committee at running back, with transfer Wayne Taulapapa, Will Nixon, and Cam Davis splitting carries.

Of the ten drives that Washington had tonight, only three of them failed to score points. Those three drives all came in the second half with the Huskies up by multiple touchdowns. After Washington first drive of the game, coming off of a first play interception, the Huskies rattled off three drives of 75+ yards. This sort of efficiency and balance is an incredibly encouraging sign, and showed what Michael Penix Jr is capable of behind center. Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer spoke about his starting quarterback, and his efficiency, postgame.

“There are some subtle things a fan would not understand, especially in the second quarter. He must’ve checked the protection three or four times… he kept us out of the bad plays, some things that he saw and heard. Putting pieces together, knowing where the pressure might come from, where the defense might be. Just really impressed about him,” Deboer remarked.

On the other side of the ball, the Huskies saw mixed results. The very first play of the game was an interception by junior safety Asa Turner, setting the tone immediately. After Kent State’s first two drives, quarterback Collin Schlee seemed to find some rhythm. The Golden Flashes used a heavy run game and receivers Dante Cephas and Devontez Walker heavily. With that sort of mixture, Kent State put up a fight and the Husky defense couldn’t properly dominate.

Washington’s defense failed to get much pressure on the quarterback, but did see success in pass defense, a calling card the Huskies have held for years. There were gashing runs and blown coverages that will need to be adjusted. On special teams, Washington’s kickoff coverage allowed Kent State to have great field position too often. Those sorts of things come in a season opening game. Football, like all sports, is a game of adjustments.

This victory alleviates some of the nerves and anxiety that surrounded this game, due to a number of reasons. Following the loss to Montana to open up last season and the general turmoil that carried throughout the year, Husky fans and players wanted to rip that page out and start anew. While it wasn’t pristine, the win showed some great potential of what the program an do this season, and some healthy areas of growth. The Huskies look to be in a good spot, and DeBoer seems ready to build off of this. The first-year Washington coach would reflect on the game.

“There are teams you should beat, but it’s never easy. You still gotta go out and do it. They made it tough for us and times, I thought that we were steady… took what they gave us offensively, we were efficient and converted when we needed to. In the second half, we got off of the field when we needed to,” DeBoer reflected.

Coming off of this victory, Washington will continue their non-conference schedule next week when they host Portland State. Kickoff for the September 10th 1PM PST.

The Huskies will look to capitalize on a Portland State Vikings team that struggled last season in the Big Sky conference, and opened this season with a loss to San Jose State.