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No. 7 Washington does as expected, rolls Montana 63-7

Huskies LB Azeem Victor tackles Montana RB Jeremy Calhoun (AP).

By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE (AP) – Dante Pettis weaved his way 67 yards for the seventh punt return touchdown of his career, Jake Browning threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 7 Washington rolled past Montana 63-7 on Saturday night.

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Pettis set a Pac-12 record, taking a punt back for a score for the second straight game. Pettis’ 61-yard return in the season opener against Rutgers last week tied him with DeSean Jackson for the Pac-12 mark and ignited Washington (2-0) after a sluggish start.

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The conference record is Pettis’ alone now. Montana (1-1) made the unwise decision to punt to Pettis on the final play of the first quarter. The senior veered to the sideline nearest where he caught the kick, cut all the way across the field, juked Montana punter Eric Williams and sprinted the final few yards to give the Huskies a 21-7 lead.

Pettis is one shy of the NCAA record for punt return touchdowns in a career, held by Wes Welker (Texas Tech) and Antonio Perkins (Oklahoma).

While Pettis showed his creative elusiveness to help break the game open, he was also responsible for the one blemish on Browning’s otherwise spectacular stat line. A first-quarter pass intended for Pettis instead caromed off his hand and into the arms of Montana safety Josh Sandry, who returned it 36 yards to tie it at 7l. The defensive score briefly energized the Grizzlies, but it was short lived.

Browning was the biggest reason why. Given plenty of time on every snap, Browning finished 22 of 26 passing with only two of his incompletions hitting the turf. Browning also showed some elusiveness as a runner, rushing for a career-high 50 yards on five carries and a touchdown.

Washington’s home opener featured plenty of highlights, including left tackle Trey Adams gaining 9 yards on a designed lateral pass that he nearly scored on, and Jomon Dotson’s 68-yard interception return in the third quarter that was perhaps better than Pettis’ return.

Montana quarterback Reese Philips threw for 123 yards, but was intercepted twice. The Grizzlies also had four drives end in Washington’s half of the field without points and had four total turnovers.

THE TAKEAWAY

Montana: The Grizzlies got a jolt from Sandry’s interception return to tie the game at 7-all, but Montana’s inability to establish a run game allowed Washington to aggressively rush Phillips. Phillips was sacked three times in the first half and Montana had just 3 net yards rushing on 17 attempts in the first half. Montana finished with 31 yards rushing.

Washington: The Huskies’ run game remains a work in progress . Washington rushed for 213 yards as a team and averaged 5.8 yards per carry, but Browning was the second-leading rusher with his 50 yards. The blowout allowed an opportunity for true freshman Salvon Ahmed to get valuable carries as the primary ball carrier in the second half. He finished with 54 yards rushing and his first touchdown on a 1-yard run.

UP NEXT

Montana: The Griz return to Missoula to host Savannah State for the first of two straight home games.

Washington: The Huskies stay home to host Fresno State next Saturday. It’s a brutal two-week stretch for the Bulldogs playing at Alabama and at Washington.