When Kalen DeBoer was named the head coach of the Huskies just after Thanksgiving 2021, it didn’t take him long to say the Dawgs would give opponents headaches on both offense and defense. He then went out and led the Huskies to an 11-2 record and a convincing 27-20 victory over Texas and former Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Oh yeah, the game wasn’t nearly as close as the score might lead you to believe.
In the postgame celebration, DeBoer honored his players and staff, who in one short season rebuilt the Dawgs after a 4-8 season and made the Huskies a Pac-12 powerhouse and a national story. “Tonight was a culmination, I think, of everything that we’ve worked on, the things that we’ve tried to improve,” he said. “You saw our physicality, I think, take that next step, and finding a way to win is something that I think we’ve really emphasized. … We’re going to find a way to win. That refuse-to-lose mantra has been a piece of what we’ve talked about.”
Led by transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (a school-record 4,641 yards passing, 31 touchdowns, 151.3 rating), the Huskies’ relentless offense averaged just shy of 40 points per game (second only to USC) and a league-leading 515 yards per game. These figures certainly aren’t surprising, given DeBoer’s history creating offenses that can’t be stopped. On defense, the Huskies were nearly as solid, ranking third in scoring defense (26 points per game). Put those two sides together, and you can see why this team came within one victory of going to the Rose Bowl. Not a bad turnaround from 4-8 in such short time.
The Huskies’ hard work translated into something larger—a re-energized fan base that can’t wait for fall 2023. Penix announced at the team banquet that he would return for 2023 instead of turning pro. That was followed by a number of the talented receivers saying they would join Penix back in Husky Stadium. When you combine that with the seven-game winning streak the Huskies closed 2022 with, you can understand why Husky Stadium will definitely be the place to be next season.