Washington fights off Texas with wild Sugar Bowl ending, will face Michigan for title

Editor’s note: For the latest updates and highlights from Michigan vs. Washington in the national championship game, follow USA TODAY Sports’ live coverage.

It’s a purple reign in New Orleans.

The Washington Huskies used their high-powered offense and staved off a late rally to beat Texas, 37-31, in the Sugar Bowl and set up a date with Michigan in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Michael Penix Jr. just missed out on winning the Heisman Trophy, but he’ll take a dominant performance in the semifinal, finishing 29 for 38 with 430 yards and two passing touchdowns. Several receivers also had big days, led by Rome Odunze's 125 receiving yards on six catches and Ja’Lynn Polk hauling in five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

The win was Washington’s first College Football Playoff victory after losing its semifinal matchup in 2016, and advances the Huskies to their first national championship game in school history.

Texas’ struggles in the third quarter proved too much to overcome; the Longhorns had only 34 yards in the third quarter, but a much-improved fourth-quarter performance made it go down to the final seconds. Texas fell 12 yards short of at least tying the game in the final play.

Awaiting Washington in the national championship game is fellow undefeated team Michigan, who beat Alabama in a thrilling Rose Bowl. The title game on Monday will pit two future Big Ten rivals at NRG Stadium in Houston. Coincidentally, Washington’s last national championship came after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

OPINION: Michigan didn't flinch in emotional win against Alabama

Texas fails to score on wild final drive

In the final seconds of the game, the Longhorns made it to the Washington 13-yard line with a chance to win after the Huskies punted the ball away, but they failed to score.

Quinn Ewers completed a 41-yard pass to Jordan Whittington on the drive, then threw three incomplete passes in the red zone.

On the final play of the game with one second left, Ewers attempted to find Adonai Mitchell in the end zone but overthrew the receiver, sealing the Huskies' win.

Texas gets the ball back with 45 seconds left

Texas has used all of its timeouts, but it might catch a break by way of an injury.

After getting nothing on a third-down run, Washington running back Dillon Johnson was noticeably in pain and needed assistance from trainers. The injury stopped the clock, so after the Washington punt, Texas will get the ball with 45 seconds left at their own 30-yard line after Washington had a kick-catch interference.

Washington recovers onside kick

The Huskies can smell the national championship game.

Washington recovered the onside kick after Texas' field goal, nearly punching their ticket to the title game against Michigan. Texas has two timeouts, so a first down would end the game.

Texas makes field goal with clock winding down

Time is ticking away for the Longhorns, but they closed the gap with a field goal.

Texas got to Washington’s 7-yard-line, but on third and 4, Quinn Ewers’ pass fell incomplete.

Down nine with 1:09 left, Texas opted to kick the field goal. Bert Auburn nailed it from 25 yards, making the score 37-31.

Washington adds big field goal late in fourth quarter

Washington knew it needed to add a score to prevent Texas from getting the lead, and the offense stepped up to make it a two-possession game with only a few minutes left.

Washington faced a third down early in the drive that could’ve gotten Texas off the field early, but Michael Penix Jr. found Jack Westover to continue the drive. The big play came when Penix found Rome Odunze down the sideline for a 32-yard pass placed perfectly in his hands to get inside the 10-yard line.

Texas prevented the Huskies from getting back in the end zone, but Grady Gross kicked a huge 27-yard field goal to make it 37-28 with just under three minutes left. Texas now needs a quick score and to get the ball back for a chance to tie or take the lead.

Texas shows life with touchdown

It was a whole 23 minutes between scores, but Texas finally put points up again in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers faked a handoff, then found Adonai Mitchell for a 1-yard touchdown midway through the last period.

The play capped a 10-play, 72-yard drive that ate 3:56 off the clock. Ewers had a play of 15 yards to Mitchell and another one of 38 yards to Xavier Worthy to march down the field.

The Longhorns are down 34-28.

Washington offense cools down after turnover

Washington had a chance to put the Sugar Bowl out of reach but could not take advantage of a Texas fumble.

While Washington was able to get a pass-interference call down the field, it was a 15-yard penalty that kept the Huskies on their side of the field.

Washington had five plays: Four were incompletions and the only completion was for no gain on third and 10.

Texas gets the ball again down 34-21 with 12 minutes left.

Texas fumbles ball, Washington recovers 

Texas might be running out of chances to get back into this one, with a fumble in Washington territory resulting in a costly mistake for the Longhorns.

After Washington made it a 13-point game, the Longhorns quickly moved down the field as time is against them. Tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders hauled in a catch and took it 21 yards, but just as Washington defenders were about to tackle him, he lost the ball, which was recovered by the Huskies.

The referees initially ruled Sanders was down, but the play went under review and possession was awarded to Washington with just under 13 minutes left.

Texas QB Quinn Ewers evaluated for head injury

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers appeared to hit the back of his head on the field.

ESPN reporter Katie George said he was evaluated on the sideline and told the team he was able to play.

Ewers remains in the game during the fourth quarter.

Washington takes 34-21 lead early in fourth quarter

It’s Washington’s time to sweep the leg. But the Huskies came up just short to start the fourth quarter.

Washington left guard Nate Kalepo was penalized with a false start on the first play of the quarter, resulting in a third and 10.

And quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s pass to Jalen McMillan sailed incomplete. Still, Washington extended its lead to 13 points thanks to a 40-yard field goal by Grady Gross.

It’s 34-21 with 14:43 left after the ensuing kickoff for Texas to keep its national-title hopes alive.

End of third quarter: Washington holds double-digit lead over Texas

It was an all-Huskies third quarter as Washington added two scores in the frame to make it a 31-21 lead with 15 minutes to go.

Washington went right down the field on its opening drive of the quarter and converted a Texas fumble into a field goal to make it a double-digit lead. Texas wasn’t able to do anything with the ball and punted, with Washington driving into Texas territory to open the quarter.

Michael Penix had a phenomenal third quarter, completing 12-of-13 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown out of halftime. Texas only had 34 total yards in the third quarter.

Washington gets turnover after touchdown

After taking a 28-21 lead early in the third quarter, Washington has the ball again.

Texas running back CJ Baxter was stripped on a run by Washington defensive end Bralen Trice, giving the Huskies the ball again at the Texas 33-yard line.

Washington could quickly turn this into a two-score lead.

Washington opens second half with touchdown

It’s a back-and-forth affair in New Orleans after Washington opened the second half with another touchdown drive to make it a 28-21 Huskies lead.

Michael Penix Jr. continues to sling it across the field for Washington, accounting for 68 of the 70 yards on the eight-play drive. All six pass attempts were completions, including the 19-yard dart in-between defenders to Jalen McMillan for the score.

Penix now has 311 passing yards on the day with two scoring passes.

End of second quarter: Washington, Texas tied at the half

Every time Washington has hit a strike, Texas continues to respond.

In quick fashion, the Longhorns went 72 yards in 10 plays to score their third touchdown and make it a 21-21 game just before halftime.

QB Quinn Ewers put up one of his best drives of the day to get Texas into the end zone, going 4 for 6 for 36 passing yards while picking up 26 yards on the ground, including a pivotal 21-yard gain to get Texas into the red zone. On the next play, C.J. Baxter rushed into the end zone to tie it up.

Huskies retake the lead after gutsy fourth-down call

Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer is showing he isn’t afraid of anything, and this time it paid off with Washington back in the end zone to retake the lead over Texas.

The Huskies had a fourth and 1 at their own 33-yard line, and even with a failed one earlier in the quarter, DeBoer wasn’t afraid to go for it again. This time it worked with a Dillon Johnson run, and Washington moved the chains.

Michael Penix Jr. then moved his team right down the field, and Penix capped it off by finding Ja'Lynn Polk, who tipped the ball up and caught it in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown pass.

Penix is continuing to air it out effectively in the first half, as he’s already 11 for 14 with 255 passing yards and the touchdown toss. Polk has also had a big day with two catches for 106 yards after catching a 77-yard pass on Washington’s opening drive.

Texas can’t take advantage of Washington turnover

It wasn’t a three-and-out, but a four-and-out is just as bad.

Texas was unable to make anything out of forcing Washington’s turnover on downs on the previous drive. Jaydon Blue had a 12-yard run on the first play, but two incomplete passes and a run for a loss of a yard followed.

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers was forced to throw his third-down pass earlier than preferred due to Washington’s pressure on the defensive line.

Now, Washington has a chance to take a lead into the second half with 5:55 left until halftime.

Washington fails fourth-down conversion

The Washington Huskies have been able to move the ball effectively in the first half, but the Longhorns have made a big stop.

Washington was in the red zone when it was faced with a fourth and-1. Coach Kalen DeBoer opted to keep the offense on the field and lined up in the Wildcat with Dillon Johnson behind center.

It didn’t work, as the Longhorns' defensive line stuffed Johnson and got the ball back to keep the Huskies from re-taking the lead.

Byron Murphy touchdown: Texas 14, Washington 14

We’ve got a big-man touchdown!

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers completed a 17-yard pass to Jordan Whittington to the 1-yard line. And that’s when Texas called No. 90 into the game.

Texas handed it off to junior defensive lineman Byron Murphy II, who scored on a 1-yard run to tie the Sugar Bowl at 14 with 10:08 left in the second quarter.

For Murphy, who is listed at 6-1, 308 pounds, it was his second touchdown this season, and the third big-man touchdown for Texas this season.

Washington muffs punt deep inside its own territory

The Washington defense looked like it was starting to hold down the Texas offense, but the Longhorns now have a chance to gain momentum thanks to a muffed punt.

The Huskies forced a three-and-out for Texas, but Germie Bernard awkwardly tried to catch the ensuing Texas punt. It slipped out of his hands and the Longhorns recovered, giving Texas the ball at the Washington 22-yard line and prime position to tie it up.

Dillon Johnson touchdown: Washington 14, Texas 7

Washington’s Dillon Johnson walked into the end zone easily for his second touchdown of the game. Washington leads Texas 14-7 as the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl is underway.

It took Washington three chances inside the 2-yard line against the Texas defense, but the Huskies punched it in to complete a 9-play, 80-yard drive to take the lead again.

End of first quarter: Washington, Texas each score touchdown

It’s a 7-7 game after one quarter in the Sugar Bowl, with Washington and Texas showing flashes of what could be an offense-driven game.

Washington scored first on its opening drive thanks to a big pass from Michael Penix Jr., while Texas responded with a score of its own on the following drive with a combination an air and ground attack. Both teams punted on their next drive, but Washington is driving toward the red zone as the second quarter begins.

Penalties are already becoming a concern for the Longhorns, who have four penalties for 30 yards in the first 15 minutes.

Texas responds with touchdown

Quinn Ewers had a bad first drive, going 0-for-4, but a much-improved second time around led to Texas getting into the end zone to make it a 7-7 game.

Ewers shook off the rust from the first drive with a 31-yard pass to C.J. Baxter on the second play of the drive to get to the Washington side of the field. That’s when the running game took over, with Ewers, Baxter and Jordan Whittington doing damage on the ground to get the Longhorns to the 5-yard line. That’s when Jaydon Blue capped off the drive, powering through the goal line to tie the score in what could turn into an offensive shootout.

Washington strikes first after big pass 

Michael Penix Jr. entered Monday with the most passing yards in the country, and he’s letting it loose early in the Sugar Bowl.

Penix found Ja'Lynn Polk for a 77-yard strike that took Washington to the 2-yard line on its opening drive, and Dillon Johnson punched it in on the following play to give the Huskies an early 7-0 lead.

Penix, the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy to Jayden Daniels, entered New Year’s Day with 4,218 passing yards and averages 324.5 passing yards a game. The score came after Texas punted on its opening drive.

Texas, Washington bring live mascots

It’s an animal affair in the Sugar Bowl, with both Texas and Washington bringing their live mascots to the semifinal matchup.

The iconic Bevo longhorn was spotted on the sideline in his enclosure, while Washington’s Dubs was spotted checking out the Superdome. It might not be a good idea for the two mascots to link up, given what happened the last time Bevo was around a dog.

Alabama exit means no SEC in championship game in 2024

“It just means more” in the Southeastern Conference. But it’ll mean more to other college football fanbases nationally, knowing no SEC team will be in the College Football Playoff Championship game this year. With Alabama’s loss in the Rose Bowl earlier Monday, a 10-year streak with an SEC representative in the national title game came to an end. It will be the first time since 2014, the first year of the College Football Playoff, there will be no SEC team in the title game. Only Alabama, Georgia and LSU have represented the SEC in the CFP title game since its inception.

How can I watch the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Washington?

The Texas-Washington Sugar Bowl game can be seen on ESPN. Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline reporter) and Katie George (sideline reporter) will call the game for ESPN.

ESPN also will offer a multi-platform presentation for each College Football semifinal game.

Texas vs. Washington in Sugar Bowl: Picks, predictions, odds

Texas is the favorite to defeat Washington in the Sugar Bowl, according to BetMGM odds.

  • Spread: Texas (-4)

  • Moneyline: Texas (-185); Washington (+150)

  • Over/under: 63.5

USA TODAY Sports’ staff picks for this game: 

We occasionally recommend interesting products and services. If you make a purchase by clicking one of the links, we may earn an affiliate fee. USA TODAY operates independently, and this doesn’t influence our coverage.

Gannett may earn revenue from sports betting operators for audience referrals to betting services. Sports betting operators have no influence over nor are any such revenues in any way dependent on or linked to the newsrooms or news coverage. Terms apply, see operator site for Terms and Conditions. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call the National Council on Problem Gambling 24/7 at 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ, OH), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN). Must be 21 or older to gamble. Sports betting and gambling are not legal in all locations. Be sure to comply with laws applicable where you reside.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Washington fights off Texas in wild game, will face Michigan for title