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Elaine Thompson, Associated Press
Washington's Cort Dennison (31) will play in front of his dad, who still holds season tickets to Utah games.

SALT LAKE CITY — Washington linebacker Cort Dennison is a good one that got away. The senior, who leads the Huskies with 34 tackles, graduated from Judge Memorial and attended University of Utah football games since he was in a car seat. His father, in fact, is still a season-ticket holder.

That, however, didn't lead to a career with the Utes.

"I can't remember the circumstances as to why he wasn't ahead of some of the other guys we were recruiting. It was a few years back," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We certainly knew of him, but he ended up at Washington. He's doing a nice job for them."

Dennison had 11 tackles in last Saturday's 31-23 victory over California. He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week earlier this season after making 12 stops (10 solo) in a win over Hawaii.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian credits Dennison for directing things in the middle and for playing with passion and energy through injuries endured by the defense.

"That's been big. I think it points to the fact of how important recruiting is," Sarkisian said. "You've gotta find depth, especially in this conference. This is a physical conference and you better have bodies that go in and play at the drop of a hat."

Dennison, however, isn't one to sit on the sidelines. He played with a sore knee against Cal, adding to previous injuries reported by The Associated Press — a helmet to the thigh, several smashed fingernails that have turned black and assorted scrapes on his legs and neck.

Despite it all, Dennison told the Seattle Times he's not going to sit out a game.

As for this week's return to Salt Lake City, the 6-foot-1, 234-pounder is determined not to get caught up in emotions. His focus is on the game and the task at hand.

However, the former Ute fan acknowledged things are a little different.

"I'm excited for my dad this week," Dennison said in a Kitsap Sun article.

Another homecoming, of sorts, involves Sarkisian. The former BYU quarterback played against the Utes in 1995 and 1996.

"I was awful, quite honestly. I threw four picks my junior year, three in the first half. They beat us," Sarkisian recalled. "My senior year, I think we only threw 12 passes. It was snowing. We rushed for 400 yards or something like that, but we were able to win the game."

That was the last time Sarkisian visited the stadium up on the hill. He's looking forward to coming back.

"It's not the biggest of venues in our conference, but they've got great fans. They do a nice job," Sarkisian said. "They understand the game. It will be a great atmosphere."

Adding to the intrigue is another reunion, albeit with a twist. Norm Chow, Sarkisian's offensive coordinator at BYU, will be calling the plays for Utah this time around.

Pac-12 home opener

Washington (3-1, 1-0)

at Utah (2-1, 0-1)

Saturday, 5 p.m.

TV: FSN Radio: 700AM

Email: dirk@desnews.com Twitter: @DirkFacer