Why you would ever, ever punt to Dante Pettis is beyond me. Yet, here we are. Again.
In the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the Washington returner extraordinaire had taken two punts to the house, giving him seven such touchdowns for his career. In the first quarter of its Week 3 game, Fresno State opted to punt to him and, well, Pettis did what Pettis does.
In one fell swoop, Pettis tied a pair of NCAA records.
The record for career punt returns for touchdowns is now shared by Pettis with Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins (2001-04). Kansas State’s David Allen (1998) and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer (2013) are the only other players to return one for a score in back-to-back-to-back games.
Washington held their own in the first quarter, aside from one late lost fumble that led to an Alabama field goal at the start of the second quarter, but Alabama’s defense is beginning to gain control of this game. Alabama leads Washington, 17-7, at halftime in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Peach Bowl.
The Huskies have had two turnovers lead to 10 points for Alabama, including a pick-six by Ryan Anderson late in the first half to push Alabama’s lead to 17-7 at halftime.
Washington’s defense has done its part to keep this game from getting out of hand, however. Washington has forced Alabama to punt the ball away twice since scoring the go-ahead field goal from Adam Griffith, with the Crimson Tide only getting as far as the Washington 28-yard line, but an intentional grounding penalty on Jalen Hurts cost the Tide 16 yards (and likely prevented Alabama from at least another three points). The field position battle is not going in Washington’s favor, and the Huskies offense have not been able to get a drive going with three consecutive three-and-outs since fumbling the football away in the first quarter.
The two teams exchanged touchdown drives in the first quarter, with Jake Browning completing a touchdown pass to Dante Pettis for a 7-0 lead, but Bo Scarbrough powered his way to a game-tying touchdown on the ensuing possession for Alabama.
Unless the Huskies can find some way to crack Alabama’s defense, the Crimson Tide look primed and ready to head to the national championship game to defend their title against either Ohio State or Clemson.
The Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies may had a few butterflies at the start of the game with a poor kickoff return from John Ross and a quick three-and-out, but the Huskies struck first in the first quarter of a College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against SEC champion Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Jake Browning delivered a beautiful pass to Dante Pettis to cap the second offensive series of the game for Washington.
The touchdown pass from Browning was his 43rd of the season, setting a new Pac-12 record for most touchdown passes in a single season, breaking the previous record set by former Cal quarterback Jared Goff in 2015.
The Crimson Tide would respond on the ensuing possession by flexing some muscle up front. Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Jalen Hurts all picked up yards on the ground for Alabama, with a key 16-yard gain by O.J. Howard through the air along the way before Scarbrough powered his way across the goal line to score a touchdown on the next drive.
Washington looked to be putting together a decent response of their own on the next drive, but a short pass to Ross was lost by the talented wideout and picked up by Alabama’s Jonathan Allen on Washington’s side of the field. Alabama holds the football at the start of the second quarter as a result.
One key position to keep an eye on as the game plays on will be Washington right tackle, true freshman Nick Harris. Harris has earned a starting role on the Washington offensive line as the season has gone alone, bu he has been given a massive test today against one of the best defensive front sin the nation today. There have already been a few rough moments on the edge.
Looking to rebound from their first loss of the season, Washington didn’t exactly jump out to a hot start on Saturday night. Still, the Huskies did what they needed to do in the second quarter against an overmatched Arizona State squad and ended up with a 24-0 lead at halftime.
Quarterback Jake Browning struggled a bit, getting picked off in the first quarter after a ball was deflected off his receiver’s hands for a tip drill interception. He threw another right to a defender in the second quarter for an apparent pick-six, but that play was negated by a flag. His defense bailed him out with an incredible interception from cornerback Kevin King in end zone on the ensuing drive.
Luckily Browning was able to make up for his second mistake, dumping it off and letting Chico McClatcher do most of the work on a 75-yard screen play for the first touchdown of the game. Dante Pettis hauled in a second score on a crisp 46-yarder after blowing by the Sun Devils’ secondary and Lavon Coleman punched it in from a yard out for another.
As bad as the Washington offense looked at times though, it had nothing on Arizona State’s performance that included six punts, two turnovers and just 48 yards in the first two quarters.
The Huskies do get the ball back to start the second half and you can bet Chris Petersen and company will be looking to put some more distance between themselves and the Sun Devils as they try to get some style points for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee.
The biggest surprise of the work week in college football came Tuesday when the College Football Playoff selection committee snubbed Washington and ranked the Huskies No. 5, behind then-one loss Texas A&M.
Poor Cal had to pay the price for that on Saturday night, as the team took out some frustrations on the road against the Bears in a 66-27 game that was far more lopsided than even that 39 point margin indicated.
For example, quarterback Jake Browning threw for 378 yards and six touchdowns… in roughly three quarters. Wideout John Ross torched every defensive back he lined up against to the tune of six catches for 208 yards and three scores. The offense averaged over 10 yards a play before the starters were pulled late in the second half and ran off 31 unanswered.
For good measure, Dante Pettis even threw for another score on a trick play to go along with his eight catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Even the defense stepped up and had a ‘look at me’ game. They picked off Cal’s Davis Webb three times and held the Bears’ normally prolific offense well under their season averages. Aside from two drives early in the game, they were pretty much either turned the ball over or were forced to punt rather quickly.
So yes, Washington seems pretty good. Whether it’s enough to crack the top four this week in the committee’s eyes will be anybody’s guess but it is pretty safe to say they continue to control their destiny. Chris Petersen’s squad moved to 9-0 on the season and remain the favorites to win the Pac-12 and advance to the playoff no matter if they wind up No. 4, No. 5, or even No. 6 on Tuesday.
And as for the Bears, all was not lost on Saturday night in Berkeley. You see it was the 10th anniversary of tailback Marshawn Lynch’s famous hijacking of a injury cart to drive around on the field after a win. Cal didn’t get the victory against the Huskies this time around but they did hand out a fabulous bobblehead commemorating the occasion and posted this great video of Lynch driving a cart around pre-game:
Not a bad consolation prize when you consider one of the best teams in the country was a tad upset coming in and looking to take out their anger on somebody.