For Pettis, ‘It’s Finally Happening’
By Mason Kelley
BOULDER, Colo. – Dante Pettis grew up dreaming of the day he could step on a college football field and make an impact.
The freshman could picture the moment in his mind. Throughout Washington’s first eight games of the season, the receiver showed flashes. But on Saturday afternoon, those flashes exploded into a breakout performance that rallied the Huskies when they needed some momentum.
With Washington trailing by six points in the third quarter, Pettis hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cyler Miles to give the Huskies their first lead of the game. He followed that up with an 87-yard punt return that matched his jersey number, leading Washington to a 38-23 victory over Colorado at Folsom Field.
“Dante has been having some great weeks of practice,” said Miles, who completed 13 of 19 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. “He’s been proactive and involved in the offense, asking questions. I expected this. He’s been doing a great job and I’m happy for him.”
When asked about his two-touchdown performance, Pettis said working for big plays, “That’s what I live for. I love doing that, making big plays that help the team out. It’s pretty exciting.”
Pettis provided a glimpse of what was to come when he caught a 48-yard pass in the first quarter. Then he jump-started the offense after halftime, beating a Colorado cornerback with a double move.
“I did a stutter-and-go,” Pettis said. “The corner bit on it. Cyler made a beautiful pass and it was an easy catch.”
Then it was time for Pettis to do something no Washington player had done since 2003 – return a punt for a touchdown.
Special teams coach Jeff Choate has been telling the Huskies they were on the verge of something special all season.
For weeks he has been saying, “We’re so close. We’re so close. We’re going to break one.”
Pettis made it happen.
“The call we had has been pretty good for us,” he said. “I saw the punter, he kicked it pretty deep, and I knew I was going to have a pretty good chance at the return. My blockers did an amazing job and that was it.”
Pettis was patient. He waited for the return to develop. He found a seam and sprinted away from the defense.
“He was great,” said Kendyl Taylor, who caught a 9-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. “He had a big, breakout game. He kind of reminded me of my freshman year. I’m really happy for him. He’s got a lot of talent.”
After a frustrating first half, Washington needed someone to make a play. Pettis provided two.
When asked if this is a sign of things to come, Pettis flashed a shy smile.
“I hope so,” he said.
He has been dreaming of this day for years. It was worth the wait.
“It’s finally happening,” he said.