LAS VEGAS — It is taken as conventional wisdom in Hollywood that the sequel rarely rises to the heights of the original. However, inn a city with as many bright lights as Tinseltown, the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks football teams turned their rematch into a movie for the ages, and did so knowing that the reels they created would also mark the end of an era.
It did not mark the end of the Huskies’ remarkable journey in 2023, which now will take them into the College Football Playoff.
Michael Penix Jr. threw for 309 yards and a touchdown as No. 3 Washington recovered after letting a 17-point second-half lead slip away to come back and defeat No. 5 Oregon 34-31 in the 2023 Pac-12 Championship Game inside Allegiant Stadium. Running back Dillon Johnson ran for 152 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns, and his 18-yard run on the next-to-final play of the game sealed the victory in what surely is the final game in the conference’s illustrious history.
The Huskies win clinched their first Pac-12 championship since 2018, and are all but assured that they’ll be named as one of the four teams for this season’s College Football Playoff come Sunday’s selection show, which would be the first time the Huskies — and the Pac-12 — would appear in the final four of Football Bowl Subdivision since that 2018 campaign.
It looks to be the last berth the conference will ever get in a playoff for the foreseeable future, with these two schools, along with longtime stalwarts USC and UCLA, headed to the Big Ten while others head to the Big 12 (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah) or the Atlantic Coast Conference (California, Stanford) at the end of the academic year.
But the league’s swan song had everything a series finale would want: big-name stars, non-stop drama, and a climactic finish. Penix and Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, both likely to be Heisman Trophy finalists, came together for a second time this season after Washington eked out a 36-33 win over the Ducks back on October 14 in Seattle in a game that featured six lead changes, three unsuccessful fourth-down gambles by Oregon’s offense at crucial moments and a missed field goal at the very end of the game that would have sent the contest into overtime.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by A Lot of Sports Talk photo editor Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 30 pictures in total.