Michael Penix Jr. has faced Michigan State before.
The Washington quarterback will know what to expect when the Huskies play host to the No. 11 Spartans on Saturday in Seattle.
Penix — who transferred from Indiana to Washington (2-0) to be reunited with coach Kalen DeBoer — led the Hoosiers to a 24-0 victory at East Lansing, Mich., in 2020. The left-hander nearly broke a Big Ten record with 20 consecutive completions in the loss, falling two shy.
“That’s one of those games where Mike was just on,” DeBoer said. “He made some big throws and it came down to the wire … We were very confident about what we could be with him at quarterback.
“That same thing is going to be the case here. He’s not going to be in awe. He’s played in many of these games. So, you’re comforted, having one of your team leaders and your quarterback in particular being a guy that has played in big games and understands the color of jersey that’s across from him. It’s nothing new to him.”
Penix has guided the Huskies to lopsided victories against Kent State (45-20) and Portland State (52-6), completing 46 of 66 passes for 682 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.
The Spartans (2-0) opened the season with a pair of victories at home against Mid-American Conference teams in Western Michigan (35-13) and Akron (52-0).
Last year, Michigan State used a nonconference victory at Miami as a springboard to an 11-2 season. Could a win at Washington do the same?
“We’re building the story of this year’s team right now,” Spartans coach Mel Tucker said. “Last year’s team is gone. That’s a different team. This is a new team; this is a new season.”
Tucker is familiar with Husky Stadium from his days coaching at Colorado.
“That place is like a hornets’ nest going in there to play,” Tucker said. “I expect it to be a really hostile environment.”
Michigan State QB Payton Thorne — who threw a school-record 27 touchdown passes last season and had four more in this year’s opener — wasn’t at his best last week, when he was picked off twice and failed to throw a touchdown against the Zips.
“Obviously the two things that stick out are the two interceptions and that’s unacceptable. Can’t have those,” Thorne said. “It almost seems like sometimes I’m almost trying to place it a little too much instead of just ripping it.”
One intriguing subplot Saturday is that of MSU freshman receiver Germie Bernard, who caught a 44-yard touchdown pass in the season opener.
Bernard signed with Washington in December. But after wide receiver coach Junior Adams left for Oregon, Bernard asked out of his national letter of intent and ended up at Michigan State.
“He’s a great kid, and it was a crazy time that he was going through,” DeBoer said. “He was an early enrollee, and I’m going to wish him nothing but the best … except for this week.”
–Field Level Media