No. 8 Washington hosts Tulsa looking for another big game from trio of star receivers

The Associated Press - September 8, 2023 8:17 am

By TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. is a gifted quarterback with a left arm capable of making any throw on the field. That’s become clear in his 14 games under center so far for No. 8 Washington.

It helps to have a trio of pass catchers that can rival any other group in the country.

Rome Odunze, Jalen McMillan, and Ja’Lynn Polk all had huge games in the season opener for Washington. And all three could be in line for another big outing on Saturday when the Huskies (1-0) host Tulsa.

If the opener was an indication, there could be a lot of productive games for all of them this season.

“We had a whole offseason just to throw to each other and pick up speed, and just hang out with each other,” McMillan said. “So we have chemistry on and off the field.”

Penix threw for 450 yards and five touchdowns in Washington’s 56-19 romp over Boise State last week. Of his 29 completions, 18 went to either Odunze, McMillan, or Polk for a combined 328 yards.

Odunze had seven catches for 132 yards; McMillan had eight for 95 yards; and Polk was the big-play threat with three grabs for 101 yards. All three also found the end zone.

“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Odunze said of the Huskies offense. “I think with our preparation and our mindset right now we believe that we can do way more.”

The matchup against Tulsa (0-1), a massive underdog, appears to be mostly a prep game before Washington’s big nonconference road matchup at Michigan State next week.

The Golden Hurricanes had an impressive debut in the first game under new coach Kevin Wilson, beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 42-7. However, it’s more than just a few steps up from facing an FCS program to taking on one of the top teams in the country on the road.

“Outstanding receivers, three, four of them that will be advertised very highly and maybe are better than advertised,” Wilson said.

RUN GAME

If there was one area of concern for Washington coming out of the opener, it was the running game. The Huskies managed just 78 yards rushing and one of their longest runs came when McMillan took a direct snap 19 yards for a touchdown. Will Nixon led the Huskies with 48 yards on six carries.

Washington didn’t need the running game to be great against Boise State because of the Huskies’ success through the air. Yet the overall performance remains a worry, especially after starter Cam Davis was lost for the season because of a leg injury suffered in camp.

“We’re just not quite there yet as a whole group, everyone in sync,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “I don’t feel it’s anything that we need to be alarmed about yet.”

QB QUESTION

Tulsa seems likely to give Cardell Williams his first start at quarterback against Washington. Williams stepped in after starter Braylon Braxton suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter of the opener.

He played well taking on a bigger role, completing 13 of 14 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Williams threw all three touchdowns during a 28-point second quarter and connected on his first 13 passes before throwing an incompletion early in the fourth quarter.

Wilson said Braxton has been able to do a little work in practice but that the team would be smart about whether to put him out there at less than 100% against an athletic defensive front like Washington’s.

“We’ll have to see how Braylen progresses. I don’t think it will be a major deal but this week we’ll have to wait and see,” Wilson said.

TOUGH TWO-STEP

Going on the road to play Washington seems like a tall task for the Golden Hurricane. It doesn’t get any easier returning home next week when Tulsa will host No. 18 Oklahoma. It’s the first time the Golden Hurricanes will host the Sooners since 2014. Assuming the Sooners remain ranked next week, it will be the first time Tulsa will play ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks since late in the 2017 season.

 

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