Dante Pettis is making his case as one of the top returners in college football history and looks to match an all-time record when sixth-ranked Washington hosts Fresno State on Saturday. Pettis has seven career punt-return scores, one behind Texas Tech’s Wes Welker and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins for most in NCAA history.
Pettis has fielded three punts this season and returned two for scores and his touchdown last Saturday against Montana snapped a tie with California’s DeSean Jackson (2005-07) for the Pac-12 record. “I think the guys blocked for him really hard up front because they truly understand that if they give him a little space, he has a good chance to make something happen,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said at his post-game news conference. “Even if he doesn’t score, that field position is really important and big to us. Dante has that unique feel and knack as a lead punt returner.” Fresno State was roughed up 41-10 by top-ranked Alabama last weekend and now faces another College Football Playoff qualifier from last season. New Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford — the former head man at Cal — is highly familiar with the Washington personnel after being a consultant on the Huskies’ staff last season.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Washington -33
ABOUT FRESNO STATE (1-1): The Bulldogs are adjusting their personnel to Tedford’s system as they attempt to rebound from last year’s miserable 1-11 season. Sophomore quarterback Chason Vigil has passed for 426 yards and two touchdowns while being intercepted once, and junior wideout KeeSean Johnson already has 15 receptions for 175 yards. The defense was shredded for 497 yards — 305 on the ground — by Alabama and lost junior outside linebacker Kesomi Mafi (knee) for the season, but sophomore middle linebacker Jeffrey Allison (team-best 19 stops) had a big performance with a career-best 14 tackles to go with a sack.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (2-0): Junior quarterback Jake Browning is coming off a 22-of-26 performance in a 63-7 beatdown of Montana and has passed for 543 yards and four touchdowns while being intercepted once. Junior running back Myles Gaskin, who topped 1,300 rushing yards each of the last two seasons, has just 97 yards in two games, while Pettis (seven receptions for 117 yards) doesn’t yet have a touchdown catch after nabbing 15 last season. Senior inside linebacker Keishawn Bierria forced a fumble on a sack against Montana and also made the recovery — the seventh of his career, which is one shy of the school mark shared by three players.
1. Washington leads the series 2-1 and won the most-recent meeting 21-20 in 2006.
2. The Bulldogs have dropped eight straight road games and 13 of their last 14.
3. Huskies junior ILB Ben Burr-Kirven (21 stops) is coming off back-to-back double-digit tackle outings, the first two of his career.
PREDICTION: Washington 52, Fresno State 14