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Utah just gave Washington its stiffest test yet, and the Huskies passed on this punt return TD

Washington’s 8-0. Getting there wasn’t easy.

Dante Pettis returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday, giving No. 4 Washington a lead on No. 17 Utah that the Huskies wouldn’t relinquish. A 31-24 win moved Washington to 8-0. It was the biggest test Chris Petersen’s team has faced yet, and the Huskies passed narrowly but impressively.

Pettis’ circuitous, brilliant return spanned almost the entire field horizontally, and it was also an impressive show from UW’s blockers, at least in part. (Utah might be angry about uncalled blocks in the back, and Utah might be right. A few are close.)

It broke a 24-24 tie with just more than three minutes to go, and when Utah mounted a drive to tie the game afterward, the Husky defense bent a little but didn’t break.

It was a hell of a game, really. Washington took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Utes were resilient about it. They pushed back with the next 17 points in the game to lead by a field goal in the third quarter, and then the see-saw started to bounce, culminating with Pettis’ return and Utah’s last-minute comeback attempt.

ESPN’s College GameDay was in town for the game, the second year in a row the network’s flagship college football show has broadcasted from Salt Lake City.

The Utes have thrived for the last few years and have this year been enjoying the fruits of their five-year-old move to the Pac-12. They’ll still head down the stretch with a chance to win the league’s South division and see Washington again in the Pac-12 Championship Game. There’s no shame in this particular loss.

Washington’s year has been even better, obviously, and the Huskies are tracking toward the title game and a great shot at the Playoff. But they’ve still got games against Cal, USC, Arizona State, and Washington State, and at least a couple of those could turn out to be trickier than they’d prefer. At least now they’ve been tested.