HOUSTON (AP) — Michael Benix Jr. couldn't close the final chapter in his storybook season Monday night.
The quarterback, who had two surgically repaired knees, threw for 255 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, No. 2 Washington fell to No. 1 Michigan 34-13 in the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
Benix returns for a sixth season as the Huskies try to win a title, but the Heisman Trophy runner-up's performance isn't enough to overcome a terrible start by his team's defense.
“Everybody knows my story,” he said. “I've been through a lot. I've had my ups and downs. But I'm grateful for it all. I'm so blessed.”
Washington (14-1) was destroyed by Michigan (15-0) for 174 yards rushing and 229 total yards in the first quarter as the Huskies trailed 14-3.
They tightened things up after that, and Benix caught Washington on a 3-yard TD pass late in the second quarter for a touchdown.
But Fenix's elite accuracy eludes him throughout. Known for his accuracy with the deep ball, he narrowly misses many downfield passes.
“I feel like it comes down to execution,” he said. “I missed a couple of throws. A couple of reads on routes and things like that. It's just the little details in our system that we're doing well all the time.
Benix also scored in his college finale. After the game, he staggered down the tunnel toward Washington's locker room, a towel covering his face and his right hand protecting his tender side.
An interception on the first play of the second half cost Washington momentum, and he couldn't get his team into the end zone after halftime, snapping Washington's 21-game hitting streak.
After injury after injury in four years at Indiana, Bennix played two seasons without major injuries at Washington, leading the nation in passing yards this season and finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting to LSU quarterback Jaden Daniels. He tore his ACL in 2018 and 2020 and suffered shoulder injuries in both 2019 and 2021.
Washington coach Cullen DeBoer — formerly Bennix's offensive coordinator at Indiana — reflected on the QB's decision to join him in Seattle.
“That's when we all knew his story,” DeBoer said. “It was kind of, it was kind of do or die at that point. And I knew in my heart what he was made of. I knew what he was capable of, and now it was just a matter of bringing it all together. And I can tell you how much it meant to me that he had that faith in me. Can not.
Bennix, who was somber and low-key for most of his post-game news conference, smiled when asked about his health after the game.
“Better than I was three years ago,” he said.
He was later checked by team doctors and said he was fine.
“No matter what, I know I'm going to finish for the guys. Give it my all,” he said. “I'm not feeling well, but … I'm fine. It's nothing big. I know that for sure.
Bennix will go to the NFL and the Huskies will leave the Pac-12 for the new Big Ten this summer. Washington is one of 10 schools leaving the conference, and while it's not gone, the Pac-12's days as a football power are certainly over.
“Our history in the Pac-12 … is coming to an end, but all of our alumni who gave us a legacy by being a part of so many big games, I'm going to make sure we always remember them,” DeBoer said. . “It's sad to see the Pac-12 come to an end at this time. But I'm glad we represented West Coast football, the Pac-12, as well as we did this year.
Trailing by 14 with four minutes left when the Huskies went on fourth-and-13 from the Michigan 30. Bennix dropped his target and was intercepted by Mike Syngrist, who returned it 81 yards. The Wolverines built a 34-13 lead after two plays, ending any possibility of a late rally.
Benix threw for 319 yards in the conference championship game to lead Washington. 34-31 win over Oregon His 430 yards passing and two touchdowns led the team 37-31 win over Texas To advance to the national title game.
But on college football's biggest stage, he came up short.
Despite Monday's disappointment, DeBoer believes Bennix cemented his status as one of the best in school history.
“I believe the Husky Nation will always hold him in the highest regard,” DeBoer said. “I think they will. I don't expect anything less because I think they understand what he's given all of us.
AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll And https://apnews.com/hub/college-football
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