PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Dante Pettis woke up No. 8 Washington just before halftime with his sixth career punt return for a touchdown and Jake Browning threw two second-half touchdown passes in a tougher-than-expected 30-14 victory over rebuilding Rutgers on Friday night.
Pettis’ blistering 61-yard return gave the Huskies their first lead at 10-7 with 3:50 left in the half. He tied former California star DeSean Jackson’s Pac-12 career record for punt returns for scores.
A senior receiver, Pettis actually set up the Huskies’ first three scores this season. His 51-yard catch set up the first of three field goals by Tristan Vizcaino and his catches of 10 and 24 yards ignited an early third-quarter drive that Browning capped with a 7-yard swing pass to halfback Lavon Coleman for a 17-7 lead.
Browning was 17 of 30 for 284 yards. He also found halfback Kyle Gaskin on an 18-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 27-7 lead.
Louisville transfer Kyle Bolin threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Janarion Grant on Rutgers’ first possession for a 7-0 lead and a 34-yarder to Dacoven Bailey with the game pretty much decided. Bolin finished 24 of 34 for 178 yards and had two passes intercepted by Byron Murphy.
The Scarlet Knights have lost 10 straight under second-year coach Chris Ash, but Rutgers showed a lot of improvement, especially against Washington. The Huskies, who were returning a big chunk of their team, beat Rutgers 48-13 last year in the opener in Seattle en route to a 12-2 record that included a Pac-12 title and a trip to the college football playoffs.
WASHINGTON: This was the easternmost game for Washington and the travel might have slowed the Huskies at the start. They still have a lot of talent and will get better.
RUTGERS: Compared to a year ago, this was a big step forward. The offense and defense are better. They will be a lot more competitive this season.
The Huskies play Montana in their home opener Sept. 9.