- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Mitch Wishnowsky had pushed No. 4 Washington in a back-and-forth showdown with No. 17 Utah. The Utah punter had the Huskies on their heels and on the wrong side of the field so much that Washington coach Chris Petersen laughed when he pinned his team on the 7 in the third quarter.

But then Wishnowsky outkicked his coverage, somewhat, late in the fourth quarter and gave Washington an opening.

Dante Pettis returned the punt 58 yards for a touchdown with 3:25 left and Washington held off Utah 31-24 on Saturday to remain undefeated.

“Honestly, I thought I was going to get tackled to begin with,” Pettis said. “I somehow slipped out of that. I was a little afraid because I lost about five yards to begin with. Once I got around that, my blockers did a good job setting up open space and that was it.

“That guy was a good punter. The best I’ve seen. The ball would just hang in the air forever and it was hard to judge where the ball was really going, but his leg paid off for us in the end.”

After Utah tied it at 24 with 9:07 left, Washington (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) pinned the Utes on their own 1 on quarterback Jake Browning’s pooch punt. The Utes (7-2, 4-2) went three-and-out and punted to Pettis, who ran parallel toward the far sideline, broke a tackle and outran everyone else. It was Pettis’ second punt return touchdown of the year and the first Utah has allowed since 2009.

Browning threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and Myles Gaskin ran for 151 and a touchdown.

“It was awesome for Dante to get that return at the end because that’s a heck of a punter,” Petersen said. “He’s a weapon. We could get nothing. He just kept driving us back, driving us back. . We finally got our chance and Dante made a couple guys miss and hats off to him.

“This is real football, Pac-12 football. … This is how it goes, sometimes you have to grind out games in the fourth quarter.”

Fans may have gotten a preview of the Pac-12 championship game as the Huskies continue to hold the top spot in the North Division. The Utes fell a game behind Colorado, but remain in the hunt.

Utah quarterback Troy Williams threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns while Joe Williams continued his remarkable post-retirement career with 172 rushing yards and a touchdown.

The two teams went back and forth in the second half after Washington led 14-10 at halftime. The Utes were on the ropes, trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, when safety Chase Hansen read Browning’s eyes, jumped a deep route and returned the interception 30 yards to set up Joe Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run. It was Browning’s first interception since Sept. 24. Andy Phillips kicked a field goal as time expired in the second quarter.

“Did they win on that, I don’t know,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said about the punt return. “That’s a great play by them, but if we punt it and they milk the clock down and kick a field goal, maybe that gave us our best chance to win - just get the ball back immediately. … You never know how things are going to play out.

“That punt wasn’t bad. We missed a tackle or two. … We had really controlled the field position with Mitch and the punting game up until that last punt.”

THE TAKEAWAY

WASHINGTON: The Huskies have a clear path to the Pac-12 championship game and a possible College Football Playoff berth. Utah was the last team on the schedule that is currently ranked. An undefeated Pac-12 champion will likely be included in the playoff.

UTAH: The Utes look to the season-finale against Colorado. The goal was to win the Pac-12 South and play in the title game, but the loss gives Colorado (6-2, 4-1) the edge in the division. The Buffaloes host Utah in the last game of the season.

“That’s the plan, win out and play them again,” Troy Williams said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

WASHINGTON: The Huskies are likely to remain No. 4 unless No. 3 Clemson loses to No. 12 Florida State on Saturday night.

UTAH: The Utes may drop a few spots, but shouldn’t be penalized too harshly after pushing the No. 4 team in the country to the brink.

ALL LOVE

Troy Williams signed with Washington as a top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in 2013, but ended up transferring to Santa Monica College. He said there were no hard feelings, but he’d been waiting for this game.

“It was great and nothing personal, just business,” Williams said. “It wasn’t fit for me to be there at the end of the day and they’re my brothers for life, just like these guys sitting here.”

UP NEXT

WASHINGTON: The Huskies travels to face California on Nov. 5.

UTAH: The Utes are at Arizona State on Nov. 10.

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