AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) — Before Rome Odunze left the room, he wanted to share a message about his Washington teammate that was sitting behind the microphones.
“You’re looking at the Heisman Trophy winner right there,” Odunze shouted in the direction of his quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
While voting is still months away, Penix’s Heisman moment may have come Saturday on the biggest stage for a pair of long-time Pacific Northwest rivals.
Penix hit Odunze on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:38 remaining after another debatable fourth-down decision by Oregon, and Camden Lewis missed a 43-yard field goal attempt on the final play as No. 7 Washington held off No. 8 Oregon 36-33 in another wild chapter to their heated rivalry.
The 115th matchup between the rivals was the first that featured both teams ranked in the top 10, along with a couple quarterbacks in Penix and Bo Nix who should contend for honor as the best player in college.
And it lived up to the hype as perhaps the biggest ever between the foes. There were offensive fireworks, wild momentum swings, big plays from the two QBs and decisions that will be questioned by one fan base.
It was a perfect recipe to an afternoon that ended with Washington fans swarming the field and Prince’s “Purple Rain” blasting through the stadium speakers.
“That was an amazing football game. If there’s one that I’ve been a part of that was bigger and better, I can’t think of it right now,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said.
The final regular-season meeting before both programs move to the Big Ten next year could be the opening act to decide the last season of the Pac-12 as we know it.
A rematch in the conference title game in Las Vegas is possible. Part I was 60 minutes of intensity, excitement and intrigue.
Penix needed just two plays to go 53 yards in 33 seconds after Oregon was stopped on foruth-and-3 at the Washington 47 with 2:11 remaining. Penix threw a 35-yard strike to Ja’Lynn Polk between two defenders, then hit Odunze on a back-shoulder throw at the goal line to give Washington (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) the lead.
“He kind of gave me the head nod to do what I needed to do. He threw it up, gave me a shot, believed in me,” Odunze said.
It was Penix’s fourth touchdown pass of the game and his second time connecting with Odunze, who had eight catches for 128 yards. Penix finished 22 of 37 for 302 yards. He threw 26-yard touchdowns to Polk and Giles Jackson during a wild first half where the teams combined for five straight touchdown drives.
Nix did his part and at times was the better quarterback. He spark Oregon’s rally from an 11-point deficit early in the second half and took a 33-29 lead on Jordan James’ 10-yard TD run with 12:58 remaining.
Nix had one last chance to get the Ducks (5-1, 2-1) into field goal range and reached the Washington 25 with 17 seconds left. Nix missed with his next two passes and on the final play Lewis push the kick to the right setting off a wild celebration of purple-clad fans pouring onto the field.
“We were a play away from this conversation being extremely different,” Nix said.
Oregon seemed in position midway through the fourth quarter to pull off a narrow victory in the same way the Huskies did last year in Eugene. Washington was stopped on three run plays inside the Oregon 2, with Tybo Rogers stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the Ducks’ 1 with 6:33 left, met by Taki Taimani and others short of the goal line.
But the Ducks were stopped on fourth-and-3 just inside midfield when Nix’s pass for Tez Johnson fell incomplete with 2:11 remaining. It was the third time in the game the Ducks failed on fourth down, the previous two coming inside the Washington 10-yard line.
“I knew that we would get the ball back and I knew we were going to go down there and make a play,” Penix said.
Nix finished 33 of 44 passing for 337 yards and threw touchdowns of 11 yards to Patrick Herbert in the first half and a 30-yarder to Troy Franklin in the third quarter. Bucky Irving added 127 yards rushing and a score.
Oregon coach Dan Lanning took responsibility after the Ducks failed on three fourth-down attempts.
“This game’s 100 percent on me. I don’t think you guys have to look anywhere else but me,” Lanning said.
The Ducks failed on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line on the final play of the first half when Nix’s pass was batted away by Dominique Hampton.
Midway through the third quarter, Nix threw incomplete on fourth-and-3 from the Washington 9. And then came his choice to go on fourth down in the final minutes, trying to end the game with his offense rather than punting and making Penix go the entire field without timeouts.
Oregon: The Ducks gained 541 total yards, had 32 first downs and held the ball for more than 34 minutes and still weren’t able to secure the victory. Six more points would have come in handy.
Washington: The Huskies will question some of their offensive play decisions in the third quarter during their consecutive three-and-outs. The Huskies ran six plays and none of them were runs. Penix completed just 2 of 6 passes on those six plays and the stops allowed Oregon a chances to regain momentum.
Washington also passed on a short field goal in the fourth quarter and was stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the one.
Oregon: The Ducks return home to host No. 19 Washington State next Saturday.
Washington: The Huskies host Arizona State next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll