No. 3 Washington wins Pac-12 Championship, remains unbeaten with 34-31 win over No. 5 Oregon

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01: Washington Huskies running back Dillon Johnson (7) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the Pac-12 Conference championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies on December 1, 2023 at Allegian

Dillon Johnson rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, Michael Penix Jr. threw for 319 yards and a score and the No. 3 Washington Huskies beat the No. 5 Oregon Ducks 34-31 to win the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night.

Leading 27-24 with 9:04 remaining, Penix authored a textbook fourth quarter drive for the Huskies to create some breathing room. A 12-play, 82-yard march by Washington took over six minutes off the clock before Penix's 2-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Moore gave the Huskies a 34-24 lead with 2:44 left to play.

The Ducks valiantly fought to the end to keep the result in doubt. An outstanding 63-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Traeshon Holden answered Washington's score in just 30 seconds to pull within three. After recovering an onside kick try by the Ducks, Penix delivered a critical third down completion to Jalen McMillan with two minutes left to play that enabled Washington to drain the clock out to secure the victory.

With the win, the Huskies will likely earn one of four spots in the College Football Playoff, which is set to be unveiled on Sunday morning.

Despite beating Oregon 36-33 at Husky Stadium in October and entering the contest Friday night with an unbeaten 12-0 record, the Huskies were 9.5- or 10-point underdogs to the Ducks. But the Huskies came out of the chutes ready for the moment.

The Huskies completely dominated the opening 28 minutes of the game as they built a 20-3 lead.

While the Washington offense looked like its typically potent self, the Husky defense was equally ready to shine. The Ducks went three-and-out three times on five first half possessions. When Oregon finally put together a sustained drive, the unit held firm in the red zone with Jabbar Muhammad breaking up a third down pass from Nix to Troy Franklin to force a 36-yard Camden Lewis field goal.

Meanwhile, Penix and the Washington offense were carving up the Oregon defense.

After the Ducks held the Huskies to a field goal on an opening 15-play drive, a big Germie Bernard punt return out to midfield gave UW terrific field position. It took just six plays for Washington to find the end zone as Dillon Johnson scored on a 5-yard toss sweep to take a 10-0 lead.

Following Lewis' field goal, Penix delivered a 22-yard strike to Rome Odunze and a 45-yard bomb to McMillan before Bernard scored on a 2-yard pass from Johnson out of a wildcat formation to give the Huskies a 17-3 advantage. Odunze had eight catches for 102 yards for the Huskies.

The Ducks defense held UW to a 37-yard Gross field goal to keep the score from getting too far out of reach. Nix then finally got the Oregon offense in gear with a touchdown before the half. 

Oregon marched 75 yards on seven plays with a 39-yard catch-and-run from Tez Johnson getting the Ducks moving. A questionable pass interference call against Muhammad moved the Ducks to the 9-yard line. Three plays later, Terrance Fergurson make a terrific one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown to cut the UW lead to 20-10 at the break.

The Ducks then cashed in on their opening drive of the third quarter as well to make it a one-score game. Jordan James had a 17-yard run and 30-yard reception to highlight the Oregon drive before Ferguson scored his second touchdown of the night on a 2-yard Nix pass to make it a 20-17 game.

Penix and Nix then traded interception on back-to-back throws. Penix was pressured into an overthrow of Odunze on third-and-11 by Khyree Jackson for the first turnover of the night for either team. After a James rush, Nix gave the ball right back to Washington as Mishael Powell picked off Nix's pass along the sideline as Traeshon Holden had stepped out of bounds.

Johnson tripped on the turf and fell down on third-and-1 and Penix was sacked on fourth down as the Huskies couldn't score off the Nix interception.

A 44-yard scramble from Nix on Oregon's ensuing possession pushed the Ducks back deep into Washington territory and James' 6-yard touchdown run gave them their first lead of the night, 24-20.

Nix passed for 239 yards and three touchdowns with an interception and led Oregon's rushing attack as well with 69 yards on six carries. 

Penix managed to punch back. A 31-yard completion from Penix to McMillan moved UW into the Oregon redzone. Penix then converted a third-and-3 with a quarterback run before three straight Johnson carries pushed into the end zone to restore the Washington lead at 27-24 with 12:23 left to play.

McMillan had his biggest game of the season after missing most of the season with injuries. He had nine catches for 131 yards with the key late third down conversion helping polish off the victory for the Huskies.