South Dakota

Analysis: After Kalen DeBoer delivered a program-defining win at Oregon, what will Washington do next?

On Tuesday morning, Edefuan Ulofoshio put in the bet.

“It’s a program-defining game,” the redshirt junior linebacker and leader said four days before UW traveled to Oregon for the first time since 2018. “Whatever coach comes in here… Pac-12 championships, yeah, that’s great. But this is how we play Oregon, that’s all at the end of the day. If you win against Oregon, they will love you forever. If not, you might not be here anymore.”

A year ago, Jimmy Lake publicly imploded at Oregon Week — he questioned the Ducks’ academic prowess in a now infamous press conference, then shoved walk-on linebacker Ruperake Fuavai (and hastened his exit) during a draining 26-16 Defeat.

But enough of the past.

The pendulum finally swung emphatically on Saturday.

After No. 24 Washington’s thrilling 37-34 win over No. 6 Oregon (8-2), Dan Lanning, first-year coach of the Ducks, said, “This game is 100 percent mine.”

Which, while we appreciate the feeling, isn’t entirely true.

It’s also on Kalen DeBoer.

UW’s new coach nearly accomplished that feat a season ago, marginalizing Oregon in a 31-24 loss at Fresno State at Autzen Stadium. And on Saturday, the 48-year-old South Dakota native finished the job.

“I know it’s just huge,” DeBoer said of the severity of the win, separated by a barricade from a growing crowd of Husky fans outside the stadium. “It’s about those guys in the dressing room and everything they’ve been through over the past few years. Given the emotion, they deserve it because they keep fighting and they keep playing, they keep working and they stick together.

“In the end, programmatically, it’s a huge win. We just beat a top 10 team on the road. For us it is just one more step. There are places and goals that we have, and I think we do some things every week that show we’re making progress toward those goals.”

Admittedly, these Huskies remain a work in constant evolution. They gave up 312 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry Saturday and racked up a mountain of missed tackles. Their much-maligned high school struggled as well, conceding second-half touchdowns for 46 and 67 yards. In 10 rides on Saturday, the ducks didn’t sting.

In truth, Washington needed breaks — a fumbling snap at the 4-yard line, a Bo Nix injury, running back Noah Whittington’s fourth-down slip, a questionable illegal touching penalty on wide receiver Troy Franklin, etc. — to Ultimately the ducks go down.

It also took a near-perfect performance from Michael Penix Jr.

Check. Check. Check.

Penix — who leads the nation with 3,640 passing yards — completed 26 of 35 passes Saturday and threw for 408 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. When Oregon went 24-20 via a 29-yard touchdown run at Whittington, Penix responded with a 76-yard skyball to wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk to put the Huskies back in front. As Oregon scored 10 straight points – buoyed by a Penix interception in the end zone – and moved up to 34-27, Penix responded again, ripping a 62-yard touchdown to Taj Davis on the opposite touchline to level the score.

It’s hard to imagine where the Huskies would be without Penix – who has completed 67.1% of his passes with just six picks and has 27 total touchdowns.

But DeBoer deserves credit in this case as well. The former Indiana offensive coordinator was chasing a high-risk passer on the transfer portal — despite Penix’s four season-ending injuries and despite a 2021 season with four touchdowns and seven interceptions in just five games.

Penix was also in the works.

And yet DeBoer still knew what to put his faith in.

“Man, coach DeBoer … I thank him every day,” said Penix, who played under DeBoer in Indiana in 2019. “He’s a guy who’s always believed in me since he’s known me. He trusts me, doesn’t care about my injury history and trusts that I can come here and take this team to great heights. I thank him all the time. I love Coach DeBoer. I’m definitely in the right place. I’m glad I made the decision here and look forward to continuing to make memories here.”

On Saturday, Bay Area News Group’s Jon Wilner tweeted that DeBoer — who may already have earned an off-season extension — has been the “best under-the-radar renter at the Pac-12 since I can’t remember when.” “.

DeBoer – and UW – should definitely be on the radar of potential recruits. The importance of Saturday’s win cannot be overstated, especially after a cycle that saw two goals from State (five-star offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr. of Rainier Beach and four-star offensive lineman Dave Iuli of Puyallup) and three former Husky commits (defensive linemen). Ben Roberts and Sir Mells and athlete Anthony Jones) signed with the rival Ducks. Oregon also owns a commitment from Caleb Presley, the four-star corner of Rainier Beach, in the 2023 cycle as well.

Whether Lake wanted to admit it or not, Oregon is UW’s main recruiting competitor. And on Saturday, Washington (8-2) may have won in more ways than one.

As Ulofoshio said, it’s a program-defining game.

Now it’s time to reset the stakes.

“The program was very talented (when I arrived), I really felt like that,” said DeBoer, whose Huskies finish the season at home against Colorado and on the road in Washington state. “But just bringing everything together and steering everyone in the same direction… that’s what we’re doing.

“We’re going to tune in to the film and realize there’s a lot of things we can always get better at. I knew we were nowhere near our best game and I challenged the guys to that last week. We still haven’t done that. But that was more on the level where we can play tonight. It will be a great learning opportunity for us to show what we are capable of when offense, defense and special teams all do their jobs.”

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