SEATTLE (AP) - Chris Petersen was awaiting a test for No. 4 Washington different from what it faced earlier in the season with the hype surrounding a home win against Stanford or the history behind its road victory at Oregon.
Playing on the road at No. 16 Utah was really the first true measure of where the Huskies stand. And the manner in which Washington came away with its 31-24 win over the Utes to remain undefeated was probably why Petersen was in such a good mood Monday.
“When those momentum swings come you feel it. It makes a difference. But I think for the most part our guys did a good job handling it,” Petersen said. “They would much rather play in that than the other type of environment where there is not much going on.”
Washington faced the types of challenges it hasn’t seen much in the previous seven games. The Huskies trailed in the second half for the first time all season. Quarterback Jake Browning committed a costly turnover that allowed Utah to get back in the game. The Huskies defense allowed points off a turnover for the first time all season. Utah running back Joe Williams rushed for 172 yards. And there were a number of costly penalties committed by the Huskies.
Yet, Washington found a way to prevail, thanks to Dante Pettis’ 58-yard punt return touchdown with 3:25 left that put the Huskies ahead for good.
Washington (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) is almost assured of finding itself in the top 4 when the first College Football Playoff rankings are released Tuesday. And the obstacles between the Huskies and the playoff are dwindling, although this week provides a unique test going back on the road to face California.
But facing such a pass-heavy opponent could have benefits down the road for Washington with the regular-season finale coming at Washington State.
“It’s good we just went on the road in a tough environment, so it just feels a lot different playing at home than on the road. So to go right back into another (road) environment, I think that can be a positive,” Petersen said. “Cal is good at home, like most are. If we’ve got to go on the road, to go back to back I think is OK.”
Pettis was named the Pac-12 special teams player of the week, to go along with linebacker Azeem Victor being named defensive player of the week. Victor’s 16 total tackles overshadowed a pair of costly personal foul penalties he received, one of which was for jawing with former teammate and Utah quarterback Troy Williams.
Petersen said Victor had already completed his punishment for the unsportsmanlike conduct foul - typically 500 push-ups. It’s the same punishment Browning received after receiving a similar flag in the win at Oregon for pointing at an opposing player as he ran into the end zone.
“It’s hard stuff because we want those kids playing right there to the edge. They have to play this game emotional and it is emotional, but you can play too emotional for sure,” Petersen said. “I think that was a little bit of the case with our defense for a lot of the game. That wasn’t one of our better defense games.”
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