There is no long history between the two, with Utah not joining the Pac-12 until 2011. But the past four games between the two have been hard-hitting, rugged affairs and usually not decided until late in the game.

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They say that opposites can make good matches.

But when it comes to the Washington and Utah football teams, it’s their similarity that has made their matchups compelling.

There is no long history between the two, with Utah not joining the Pac-12 until 2011. But the past four games between the two have been hard-hitting, rugged affairs and usually not decided until late in the game.

Both teams will likely have similar strategies in Friday’s Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara, Calif.: establish the run, which will open the passing game and rely heavily on their physical and touted defenses.

“We are playing one of best defenses in the Pac-12, if not the country, so we know it’s going to be a challenge for us,” said Washington senior tight end Drew Sample.

The Huskies are 11-1 overall against Utah, dating to the first meeting in 1939. UW is 5-1 against the Utes since they joined the Pac-12. But a rivalry has begun since Chris Petersen began coaching at UW. The Huskies have won three of the four matchups, and each has been a tough, hard-fought battle.

“I think they’re really competitive games,” Petersen said Wednesday. “I think there is a lot of respect for Utah.”

Said UW senior running back Myles Gaskin: “They hit hard, and we hit hard.”

Expect more of the same Friday, but first here’s a look at the four games the teams have played the past four seasons.

Washington’s Benning Potoa’e tackles Utah’s Britain Covey by the back of the neck in September. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Washington’s Benning Potoa’e tackles Utah’s Britain Covey by the back of the neck in September. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Sept. 15, 2018: UW 21, at Utah 7

The Huskies won with the formula that would likely work again Friday: run successfully and shut down the Utes’ offense.

Gaskin rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, and the UW defense didn’t allow a point on three Utah drives in the fourth quarter that started inside Washington’s 35-yard line. On each of those drives, UW made a fourth-down stop.

“The bottom line is we had some chances and didn’t capitalize,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters after the game. “When you play a team that good, you better capitalize on those opportunities.”

The Huskies gained 172 of their 327 yards on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Huskies held Utah to 261 yards and forced three turnovers. It will be a different Utah offense the Huskies will face Friday, with quarterback Tyler Huntley and top running back Zack Moss having suffered injuries. But even with those two, the Utes could not get anything going against the UW defense.

“Proud of our guys. This is a hard place to play,” said UW coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s a physical Utah team and we knew it would be. Our guys obviously answered that.”

Huskies place kicker Tristan Vizcaino and holder Race Porter, left, celebrate after Vizcaino kicked the game-winning field goal last year. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)
Huskies place kicker Tristan Vizcaino and holder Race Porter, left, celebrate after Vizcaino kicked the game-winning field goal last year. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

2017: At UW 33, Utah 30

The Huskies scored 10 points in the final 58 seconds, winning on Tristan Vizcaino’s 38-yard field goal as time expired.

The Huskies were down 30-23 when they got the ball back on their 41 after a Utah punt. Husky quarterback Jake Browning led the Huskies down the field in nine plays, and converted a fourth-and-10 pass to Andre Baccellia that kept the drive alive. When Gaskin scored from 2 yards with 58 seconds left, overtime seemed likely.

But Utah was aggressive and came out throwing, which didn’t work out. The Utes had to punt, giving Washington the ball at its 28 with 29 seconds left. That was enough time for the Huskies to get into field position, thanks to an 18-yard pass to Dante Pettis and a 31-yard pass to Baccellia.

“You just have to keep attacking,” said Browning after the game. “We practice that a lot just going through clutch drives in practice. We just have to keep battling. No one was saying much, we just knew we had to respond.”

Browning was 26 of 35 for a season-high 354 yards with two touchdowns in a rare matchup between these teams when the offenses had the upper hand. Huntley threw for 293 yards for Utah, but the Huskies made some key fourth-quarter stands to give the Husky offense a chance.

Browning wasn’t in the mood for much reminiscing this week.

“That was a fun game, but I am on to this one,” he said Tuesday.

Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis returns a punt for the eventual game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter in 2016.  (Johnny Andrews / The Seattle Times)
Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis returns a punt for the eventual game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter in 2016. (Johnny Andrews / The Seattle Times)

2016: UW 31, at Utah 24

The Huskies, ranked No. 4, improved to 8-0 with a hard-fought victory that was decided on Dante Pettis’ 58-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3:25 remaining. It was the first punt returned for a touchdown in seven years.

UW’s defense made a final stand, and the Huskies could finally relax.

“It was nerve-wracking up until the very end,” Browning told reporters afterward.

Browning passed for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and Gaskin rushed for 151 yards on 19 carries.

But it was Pettis who saved the day, with one of his NCAA record nine punt-return touchdowns. Mitch Wisnowsky, who punted the ball, is still the Utes’ punter and one of the best in the nation, averaging 45.4 yards a kick in his senior season.

“It was awesome for Dante to get that done at the end, because that punter’s a heck of a punter,” Petersen said after the win. “He’s a weapon. We could get nothing (earlier in the game).”

Washington quarterback Jake Browning is sacked by Utah’s Gionni Paul in 2015.   (John Lok / The Seattle Times)
Washington quarterback Jake Browning is sacked by Utah’s Gionni Paul in 2015. (John Lok / The Seattle Times)

2015: Utah 34, at Washington 23

Devontae Booker rushed for 150 yards on 34 carries for No. 13 Utah, and the Utes defense forced five turnovers, which helped spell doom for the Huskies.

Washington trailed 21-6 in the second quarter before cutting Utah’s lead to 24-23 early in the fourth quarter before Utah pulled away.

Penalties also hurt UW as two touchdowns were called back and it had to settle for a field goal each time. Browning threw for 257 yards and a touchdown but was sacked four times. Utah out-rushed the Huskies, 192 yards to 135.

“Frustrating ballgame, to say the least,” Petersen said afterward.

Said Browning after game: “It’s not like the refs lost us the game or anything. We lost the game because we turned the ball over too much.”