SEATTLE — After five games without a spectacular moment on special teams, it was time for Dante Pettis to stand alone in the NCAA record book.
Pettis became the NCAA’s career leader in punt return touchdowns and had a 47-yard TD reception, leading No. 12 Washington past Oregon 38-3 on Saturday night.
“If he makes the first guy miss, it’s usually a touchdown,” Washington quarterback Jake Browning said.
A year after breaking a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks, Washington (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12, No. 12 CFP) kept alive its hopes for a return to the College Football Playoff by thumping its rival to the south.
The blowout was sparked by Pettis on a frigid, wet night along the shore of Lake Washington. After a sluggish start, Pettis’ ninth career punt return touchdown early in the second quarter started an avalanche of Washington points.
“Punt returns for touchdowns are rare … and I already had three this year so it wasn’t like, ‘I haven’t got a punt return in a long time,'” Pettis said. “Each week I was going into it and just trying to get the best return that I could.”
Pettis caught the line drive from Oregon’s Adam Stack, made the initial defenders miss, hurdled an attempted tackle from Stack at the Oregon 40 and found open space as he sprinted to the end zone. The 64-yard play was the fourth punt return for a score this season by Pettis, tying a Pac-12 record. He had punt return touchdowns in three straight games in September to pull even with Antonio Perkins (Oklahoma) and Wes Welker (Texas Tech) on the NCAA list.
“We didn’t get enough hang time on it to get our guys down there,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart said. “That’s like Football 101. When you punt the ball you’ve got to allow your guys to get down there and we didn’t do a good job with that kick.”
It was just the start of a big night for the senior. He finished with four catches for 87 yards and put the game out of reach on the first drive of the second half, getting behind the Oregon defense for his seventh touchdown reception of the season and a 24-3 lead.
“He’s just got a knack,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s a really deceptive guy even as a receiver. He’s a long strider that has tremendous suddenness to him.”
Lavon Coleman added a remarkable 31-yard, catch-and-run touchdown later in the third quarter. Coleman was just trying to get a first down on third-and-12, but ended up in the end zone. He was spun down by Oregon’s Jimmie Swain, but instead of hitting the turf, Coleman’s backside bounced off Swain’s chest. Coleman popped up and raced the final 20 yards for the score.
Myles Gaskin rushed for 123 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown in the first half where he faked a reverse to Salvon Ahmed, kept the ball and got great downfield blocking. Ahmed later added a 58-yard touchdown run as part of Washington’s 21-point third quarter.
Browning threw for 204 yards, and his two TD passes tied Keith Price for the school record at 75.
Brandon Burmeister started at quarterback for Oregon as the Ducks (5-5, 2-5) kept Justin Herbert out for one more game due to a collarbone injury. Herbert has not played since being injured in late September.
Royce Freeman rushed for 122 yards, but the Ducks had almost no passing attack. After gaining 116 yards on their first two possessions, Oregon gained just 73 total yards on the next eight possessions.
“I think we can run the ball better if we can throw it better,” Taggart said. “It’s good to see that our guys are able to run the football when everyone knows we’re going to run.”
FUN WITH NUMBERS
The three points by Oregon were the fewest since the Ducks were shut out by UCLA late in the 2007 season. … Oregon had just 31 yards passing, the fewest allowed by Washington since giving up 22 to San Jose State in 2004.
It was a big week for the Pettis family. Pettis’ father, Gary, won a World Series ring as a coach for the Houston Astros. Dante Pettis was given permission by Petersen to attend Game 6 in Los Angeles, but had to return to Seattle and could not stay for Game 7.
“This week has just been insane. Lot of blessings coming our way,” Pettis said.
Oregon: The Ducks didn’t even bother trying to throw the ball against Washington’s secondary that was missing two starters at cornerback. The Ducks were cautious at best with Burmeister, never allowing the young quarterback to push the ball downfield.
Washington: The Huskies came in with the best run defense in the Pac-12 and second-best in the country, allowing just 71.6 yards per game. While the Ducks finished with 247 yards on the ground, the Huskies did their job in not letting Oregon dictate the game with its rushing attack.
Oregon: The Ducks have a week off before hosting Arizona on Nov. 18.
Washington: The Huskies have a short week and travel to Stanford on Friday night.