University of Washington

Salvon Ahmed shows he could be the Huskies newest big-play threat

Here is what Chris Petersen said after UW’s win over UCLA

Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen addresses the media after his team’s 44-23 win over UCLA on Saturday.
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Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen addresses the media after his team’s 44-23 win over UCLA on Saturday.

Any Washington fan who follows recruiting knew about Salvon Ahmed and his electric ability to instantly change a game. For those who weren’t familiar with Ahmed, they learned more Saturday.

The true freshman running back showcased his athleticism and versatility in the No. 11 Huskies’ dominant 44-23 win over UCLA at Husky Stadium. Ahmed finished with six carries for 40 yards and ran wild for 161 kickoff return yards.

In all, he finished with a team-high 208 all-purpose yards. He did it on a day when Lavon Coleman rushed for three touchdowns and Myles Gaskin punished the Bruins for 175 rushing yards.

“He can do whatever he wants,” Gaskin said of Ahmed after the game. “Personally, like I said, Lavon is like my big brother and Salvon is like my little brother. I got nothing but faith in that guy. I love to see him touch the rock.

“You just see glimpses. Not even glimpses. You know its there.”

Rivals rated Ahmed as a four-star prospect out of Juanita Kirkland last year. He was the No. 4 prospect in Washington and the No. 11 athlete in the nation.

A former U.S. Army All-American, the 5-foot-11 and 189-pound Ahmed has featured in every game this season. He had nine carries for 54 yards against Montana plus he’s had at least four yards of more than 12 yards.

What he achieved against the Bruins was different. He broke off a 34-yard run, yet his play of the day was a 82-yard kickoff return.

UCLA, which cut the lead to 10-9 with 10:23 left in the second, sent the ball his way on the ensuing play. Ahmed, with some help from his blockers, found a few lanes and thrashed ahead to reach the Bruins’ 18.

Two plays later, the Huskies had a 17-9 lead.

“He’s been in the mix from Day 1,” Petersen said about Ahmed as a returner. “Obviously, Salvon had a very nice day today.”

Washington kicker Tristan Vizcaino talks about his performance against UCLA.

VIZCAINO HAS PERFECT AFTERNOON

Much like the slow start topic, the Huskies’ kicking game has come under a critical eye.

The concerns reached a fever pitch when freshman Van Soderberg missed two field goal attempts in UW’s 13-7 loss at Arizona State on Oct. 14. Petersen suggested earlier in the week the team would give senior Tristan Vizcaino the first chance at a field goal against UCLA. Vizcaino repaid his coach’s faith by going 3 for 3 on field goals and converting all five of his extra points in the win over the Bruins.

“It’s just the product of all the work we put in,” Vizcaino said. “It feels good to bounce back and hopefully keep it rolling.”

Vizcaino’s 2017 campaign has been a roller coaster.

He opened the season hitting three field goals in the Huskies’ win over Rutgers. From there, it’s been a challenge.

Vizcaino went 1 for his next 6 attempts, which led to Soderberg getting an opportunity. Now, it appears the job belongs to Vizcaino.

“He’s kicked well for two weeks. I’ve been saying it. He can kick,” Petersen said. “Not just chip shots. He’s got a powerful leg. We’ve seen it for two weeks straight.”

PAIRING UP ON OFFENSIVE LINE

Instead of choosing Andrew Kirkland or Luke Wattenberg to play left tackle, the Huskies opted to go with both.

Since the team lost star left tackle Trey Adams against Arizona State, there’s been a push to find his replacement.

Kirkland, a senior, received the start but the Huskies alternated between the two linemen.

“I really didn’t see much of it,” Petersen said of his two left tackles. “But when I didn’t hear their names and didn’t show up with a sack and all those things, I think both those guys are good players. They had a good two weeks.”

The Kirkland-Wattenberg combination did work. Fifteen of UW’s 24 first downs came via the run. The Huskies ran for 333 yards and averaged 5.7 yards a carry. Although the Huskies only threw ball 12 times, the line did not allow a sack.

Junior quarterback Jake Browning said he thought the line as a whole played well.

“As far as what stood out is that there seemed be a lot of holes and people were running,” Browning said. “I thought our running backs ran well but it definitely got started with the O-Line.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark

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