Huskies Insider Blog

Brave Browning? Vea pressure? Ahmed big play? Here’s 3 matchups to watch in Huskies’ opener

Quarterback Jake Browning calls out an audible as the Washington Huskies played the Oregon Ducks in a football game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
Quarterback Jake Browning calls out an audible as the Washington Huskies played the Oregon Ducks in a football game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday, October 8, 2016. jbessex@gateline.com

Had a few matchup thoughts walking around nearby Princeton University, killing time before kickoff between the Huskies and Rutgers.

And this continues to come up — for the Scarlet Knights to have a chance in this game, they are going to have to strike on a few big plays in this game.

Here are three intriguing matcups heading into the UW-Rutgers game:

1. Huskies QB Jake Browning vs. Rutgers CB Blessuan Austin

Oddly enough, the area that concerns me the most about the Huskies heading into the new season is the passing game.

Maybe not long term, but Browning and company are going to have to find ways to live without reliable John Ross.

Browning needs to set a good tone early, not just for this game, but for what might the expectation be the rest of the season.

Austin is as good a defender as Rutgers has. He started 11 games last season as a sophomore at cornerback, and registered 14 pass break-ups — the most the school has had since 2012. Sooner or later, those will start turning into interceptions.

It will be interesting to see how much Browning tests Austin in this game. The last thing UW fans need is to see Austin to win a few one-on-one matchups, and make a big play.

2. Huskies DT Vita Vea vs. Rutgers QB Kyle Bolin

All week, UW coaches and players have praised Bolin’s big arm and overall athleticism from old game tape.

Well, that tape at Louisville was limited last season (six games in reserve of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson), and likely came against second- and third-string defenses.

The last game Bolin started was Nov. 28, 2015 against Kentucky. That is a long ways back since the last time he faced the best of a program’s best on defense.

And he will need to be on the lookout for one of the nation’s top interior defenisve linemen Friday night in Vea.

No quarterback adjusts well to hits coming up the middle, and if Vea can get pressure on Bolin early and often, it could be a disaster debut for the transfer.

3. Huskies KR Salvon Ahmed vs. Rutgers KR Janarion Grant

UW coach Chris Petersen said because of the lack of consistent live-work hitting during preseason camp, the area in which sloppiness usually shows up in tackling early on is special teams.

That might be good news for one of these kickoff returners.

With Austin Joyner suspended for two games, that might be all the window Ahmed needs to seize the job and run away with it. He has flashed that big-play potential all of fall camp.

Grant is already an established entity — and a dangerous one at that. He had a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown last season in just four games before going down with a season-ending broken-ankle injury.

The Rutgers redshirt senior has eight career kickoff- and punt-return scores, tied for most in NCAA history.

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