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Looking back on the Washington Huskies’ top 10 moments for 2017

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 9, 2018, 8:23 p.m.

Washington coach Chris Petersen, quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. (Associated Press)
Washington coach Chris Petersen, quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. (Associated Press)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Washington Huskies concluded their 2017 season with a 35-28 loss to No. 9 Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. The Huskies finished the season with a 10-3 record, marking the first time since 1990-91 that the program has had back-to-back double-digit win totals.

Here is a review of the best moments of the season for UW:

10. So long, Rondeau

After 37 years in the broadcast booth, Bob Rondeau signed off for the last time Saturday as the Voice of the Huskies. “As I get later on in my life, I hear people say I can’t wait until this is over,” Rondeau told The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen after the Apple Cup. “Well, guess what? Don’t ever wish for the speedy passage of time. Just don’t. It’s the most valuable thing you can have. Good, bad or indifferent. Savor the time. This day was really long, but it could never be long enough. It was extraordinary.”

9. Bryant breaks through

Hunter Bryant, the freshman tight end from Issaquah, Washington, had his coming-out party in the Huskies’ 38-7 victory over Cal on Oct. 7. He had nine catches for 121 yards and his first career touchdown reception – a brilliant catch on the right side of the end zone in which he reached over a Cal defensive back to steal the ball away from what appeared to be a sure interception.

“We knew coming in he was about to be something special,” senior receiver Dante Pettis said. “This guy’s the truth, and it’s showing.”

A partially torn ACL kept Bryant out of the Huskies’ final four games of the regular season, one of a series of blows to the UW passing attack (Chico McClatcher and Quinten Pounds were lost for the season, and Andre Baccellia and Drew Sample were limited much of the season). Bryant did return for the Fiesta Bowl, playing just a couple of snaps, and he figures to be a prominent part of the offensive plans in 2018, along with another true freshman standout, Salvon Ahmed.

8. Murphy’s impressive debut

For most programs, losing the likes of Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Kevin King in one offseason would be a devastating setback. But the Huskies knew they had sufficient depth in the secondary, and they knew they had an emerging star in redshirt freshman cornerback Byron Murphy.

In his UW debut, Murphy had two interceptions in the season-opening victory at Rutgers. “Nothing that I haven’t seen. He’s got great ball skills,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “If the ball’s around him, the guy can catch. He’s an instinctual player. He kind of came out of nowhere and undercut guys.”

Murphy suffered a broken foot during practice in late September and missed the Huskies’ first seven Pac-12 games. He returned in late November and broke up three passes and forced a fumble in the Apple Cup, and he had a spectacular interception in the back of the end zone in the Fiesta Bowl.

7. Browning breaks TD record

In his third season as the starting quarterback, Jake Browning broke the school record for touchdown passes against Utah on Nov. 18, surpassing Keith Price’s record. Browning finished the season with 21 touchdowns, five interceptions and a school-record completion percentage of 68.5 percent. He enters his fourth season as the starting QB in 2018 with 78 career touchdown passes.

6. Defense shuts down Cal

In a 38-7 rout of California at Husky Stadium on Oct. 7, the Huskies’ defense registered eight sacks – while often rushing just three defenders – and held the Bears to minus-40 yards of rushing. The Huskies were in line for a shutout until a Cal defender returned a UW fumble for a touchdown, the Bears’ only score of the day. With the win, the Huskies improved to 6-0 and rose to No. 5 in the AP poll. Washington finished with the Pac-12’s No. 1 defense for the third consecutive season – and could return nine regular starters on defense in 2018.

5. Gaskin hits 1,000 (again)

Myles Gaskin joined Napoleon Kaufman and Chris Polk as the third running back in UW history to rush for 1,000 yards in three seasons – and Gaskin nearly chased down Kaufman’s school rushing record in the Fiesta Bowl. Gaskin had 98 yards on 14 carries in what might have been his final game in a UW uniform, and he finished his career with 4,055 yards rushing (Kaufman has 4,106 yards). This season, Gaskin did break the school records for career rushing touchdowns (45) and total touchdowns (49).

4. Gaskin’s Fiesta Bowl burst

Trailing 28-7 early in the second quarter, the Huskies rallied against Penn State in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl, getting within a touchdown on Gaskin’s 69-yard burst midway through the fourth quarter. Alas, Penn State held onto the ball for more than 6 minutes to all but ice the game. In their desperate final drive, the Huskies had 34 seconds to try to drive 72 yards, and the game ended after a failed hook-and-lateral.

3. Pettis’ return

All-American Dante Pettis, the Huskies’ senior wide receiver, returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown in the Huskies’ 38-3 rout of Oregon on Nov. 4, breaking the NCAA record for punt-return touchdowns in a career. It was Pettis’ fourth punt-return touchdown of the season and ninth of his career.

Pettis broke the record just a few days after his dad, Gary – the Houston Astros’ third-base coach – won a World Series ring. “This week has just been insane,” Pettis said after the game. “A lot of blessings coming our way.”

2. Utah comeback

What a scene it was. And what a comeback.

In the most dramatic game of Petersen’s UW tenure, the Huskies put together two scoring drives in the final 2:03, scoring 10 points in the final 58 seconds to beat Utah 33-30 at Husky Stadium on Nov. 18. Beleaguered senior kicker Tristan Vizcaino came through in the biggest moment of his career, drilling the winning 38-yard field goal through the uprights in the west end zone as time expired.

“It’s a huge deal,” an emotional Vizcaino said afterward. “I’ve let my teammates down a couple games in the past, and being able to bounce back and maybe make it up to them tonight, it meant a lot to me.”

1. An Apple Cup beatdown

This has become the norm for the Huskies in the Apple Cup: No. 15 Huskies 41, No. 14 Cougars 14.

The UW defense intercepted Luke Falk three times and Vita Vea wrecked Washington State’s offensive hopes from the start, as the Huskies won their fifth consecutive Apple Cup. Gaskin had one of the best games of his UW career, rushing for 192 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s definitely our favorite game,” UW senior safety Ezekiel Turner said. “The ball was flying wild everywhere and guys were just coming up hitting everywhere. It was definitely fun to be a part of. It’s always fun whippin’ up on the Cougs.”

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