SALT LAKE CITY -- Washington stole some special teams thunder from Utah at a critical juncture.
The Utes built a reputation in the Pac-12 for working special teams magic. This time around, the Huskies earned that spot on the highlight reel when Dante Pettis uncorked a memorable punt return.
Pettis slipped past a couple tacklers, hit an open lane toward the right sideline, and raced 58 yards for the winning touchdown in the No. 4 Huskies' 31-24 victory over No. 17 Utah on Saturday afternoon.
Washington was the first team to score off a punt return against Utah since Oregon did it in 2009. It offered an unexpected turn of events with the Huskies facing one of the nation's best punters in Utes sophomore Mitch Wishnowsky.
"It's awesome for Dante to get that done at the end because that punter is a heck of a punter," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "He's a weapon and we could get nothing. He just kept driving us back and driving us back."
Myles Gaskin rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown and Jake Browning threw for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Huskies. Washington (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) has won 11 straight games dating back to last season and stayed on track in its push to reach the College Football Playoff.
Joe Williams rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries while Troy Williams was 14-of-31 passing for 163 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Utes. Utah (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) fell to 1-9 all-time against the Huskies.
The Utes had a chance to force overtime after Pettis ripped off his go-ahead punt return when they drove to Washington's 26-yard line. Then Keishawn Bierria sacked Troy Williams on third down, and Williams' fourth-down pass fell incomplete, allowing the Huskies to run out the clock.
"This is how it goes," Petersen said. "You got to grind it out in the fourth quarter. Having huge leads in the first half -- we've been fortunate with that, but I don't think that's how it goes from here on out. We need to learn to be able to play with poise in tight games."
After a sluggish start on offense, Washington broke through near the end of the first quarter. Back-to-back completions from Browning and a 23-yard run from LaVon Coleman pushed the Huskies into the red zone. Gaskin finished off the drive by racing 10 yards untouched around the left side to put Washington up 7-0.
The Huskies extended their lead to 14-0 on a 16-yard touchdown catch by John Ross. Washington set up the score on Browning's pass to Darrell Daniels, who turned it into a 38-yard catch-and-run.
Utah gained some momentum after Chase Hansen picked off a pass from Browning. Hansen read Browning's eyes on a deep route, jumped the ball and returned it 30 yards to the Washington 19. It set up a 2-yard scoring run from Joe Williams, which cut the Huskies' lead to 14-7.
"We tried to disguise all night," Hansen said. "He's a really good quarterback and a smart dude. We tried to disguise the coverage. We were in a two shell and he must not have seen us through the seam."
Andy Phillips tacked on a 29-yard field goal on the final play of the half. Then, Utah took its first lead of the game 17-14 when Siaosi Wilson hauled in a 6-yard pass in the back of the end zone to cap off the Utes' opening drive of the second half.
Washington answered quickly. The Huskies hit one big play after another, culminating in Ross collecting a 5-yard touchdown pass. It gave the Huskies a 21-17 lead with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
After Cameron Van Winkle hit a 41-yard field goal to increase the Huskies' lead to 24-17, the Utes tied it up on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Evan Moeai with 9:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.
That set up Pettis' punt return -- his second for a touchdown this season after a 68-yarder versus Rutgers -- and Utah's late drive that fell short. Now the Utes shift their focus to clinching a Pac-12 South title so they can get a potential rematch in December.
"If we take care of business, we will probably play these guys again," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "That's our objective. The goal is still there to try and make it to the championship out of the Pac-12 South."
NOTES: Utah is the first team to score points off a Washington turnover this season. ... Eight of Jake Browning's 12 completions went for 15 yards or more. The Huskies also had 10 runs of 10 or more yards from Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman. ... Joe Williams rushed for 110 yards in the first half, making it the third straight game he eclipsed 100 rushing yards before halftime. ... Washington and Utah were each 6 for 6 on scoring chances in the red zone.