University of Washington

Huskies RB Salvon Ahmed returns from injury for career night in win over USC

Last week, Salvon Ahmed could only watch.

Instead of traveling with Washington to BYU, Ahmed was stuck viewing the game on television with his family. He suffered a leg injury before the win over Hawaii the week before, and it got worse in the days leading up to the match-up with the Cougars. With Ahmed unable to start at running back, backup Sean McGrew rushed for a career-high 110 yards.

After the win over BYU, head coach Chris Petersen said Ahmed wasn’t close to being able to play. And as he previewed USC, Petersen would only say that Ahmed was week-to-week.

But Ahmed did return to the field against the Trojans, finishing with a career-high 153 yards — the most for a UW rusher this season — and a touchdown on 17 carries. A big chunk of those yards came on a single play: A 89-yard touchdown run in the third quarter just minutes after defensive back Elijah Molden ended a promising USC drive with an interception.

“I just saw a backside hole with one guy in there,” Ahmed said of the run. “I just tried to make him miss and try to go. When I was finishing the run I looked up at the screen there was a guy kind of close behind me so I had to kind of turn it around. … The offensive line created a hole on the backside and I made the play.”

Once Ahmed burst through a hole in USC’s defense, there was little doubt he would score. Asked if it was the longest run of his football career, he chuckled.

“Probably,” he said, laughing as he released a long breath. “I was tired.”

He should have been. It was the fifth-longest run from scrimmage in UW history, and the longest since Napoleon Kaufman went 91 yards against San Jose State on Oct. 8, 1994.

“As soon as I saw him get that crease, I knew he was gone,” said UW tight end Hunter Bryant. “He’s one of the fastest players in the country so anytime he gets in open space it’s good for us.”

Run heavy

Huskies defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake admitted he was surprised by how often USC quarterback Matt Fink used his legs on Saturday.

After all, Fink entered the game as the only scholarship quarterback available for the Trojans. Fink took over for No. 2 quarterback Kedon Slovis in last week’s victory over Utah after Slovis was knocked out of the game on the second play from scrimmage.

Slovis entered concussion protocol and wasn’t cleared to play against the Huskies. He inherited the starting job after JT Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening victory over Fresno State.

If Fink had to leave the game against the Huskies for any reason, USC would be forced to turn to Brandon Perdue. Perdue, a walk-on, entered the program as a quarterback before converting to safety. He returned to his original position last month.

So it was more than a little shocking to see Fink take off so often, occasionally falling forward for extra yards instead of sliding to avoid contact. He finished the game with six rushing attempts for 19 yards.

“It was as good call on their part,” Lake said. “We definitely weren’t looking for that. The thought of running your quarterback when your next quarterback wasn’t recruited to play quarterback there, that was definitely a surprise moment for us.

“They did it once and I was like, there’s no way they are going to come back and do it again. And then they did it again. It’s a good play because we weren’t expecting it. Play-calling is all about keeping your opponent off-balance and that was definitely an off-balance call that we weren’t expecting.”

Two picks for Williams

True freshman safety Cameron Williams had two interceptions on Saturday, including one late in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory for the Huskies. He now has three interceptions on the season.

Williams became the first true freshman with two interceptions in a game since Taylor Rapp in the 2016 Pac-12 championship game against Colorado.

“It is definitely a proud moment,” Lake said, “when a player you just recruited, who just arrived here, is learning the signs, learning the technique, all of our coverages (makes an impact). For him to go out there and make those plays against a big-time opponent, it was definitely a proud moment.”

Extra points

Redshirt freshman running back Richard Newton scored his sixth rushing touchdown and seventh touchdown of the season. … Wide receiver Andre Baccellia recovered an Ahmed fumble in the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown. It was UW’s first fumble recovery for a touchdown since Terry Johnson on Sept. 20, 2003 against Idaho.

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Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.
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