When Richard Newton went down with a gruesome-looking leg injury in the Washington football team’s loss to Stanford, it was just the next man up in the tailback room.
Although, that’s not anything new for the running backs who have rotated playing time throughout the entire season and have three ball carriers with over 50 carries.
In the Huskies’ following game against Arizona, the Stable combo of Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew might have had their best performance of the season. While McGrew paced the running game with 106 yards, Ahmed pounded in three touchdowns and rushed for 95 hard-earned yards of his own in a dominant 51-27 win.
“He’s usually my roommate when we travel so I was missing my guy,” McGrew said of Newton. “He runs extremely hard and I think I wanted to run extremely hard today so it wasn’t like we were missing our big back. I wanted to be our big back today, and bring Rich with us in the game even though he wasn’t here.”
Despite being just a redshirt freshman, head coach Chris Petersen was quick to label Newton a big loss for the offense as one of the top contributors. Through six games, Newton had six touchdowns and led the Huskies in rushing touchdowns to that point in the season.
But Petersen also knows what he has beside Newton, two junior veterans with plenty of big time game experience and talent in McGrew and Ahmed.
The duo has the same goal week-in and week-out, and both have said that the offense is at its best when the running backs are able to burst off five yards a carry as a group.
“I think we’re a very explosive team,” Ahmed said. “We have one of the best o-lines in the country, we have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and we have one of the best wide receiver groups in the country. I’m a firm believer in what we can do every given Saturday.”
When the tailbacks get their chance, more often than not, they produce. The wealth of experience in the room offers an enormous amount of problems for opposing defenses, but with Myles Gaskin off to the NFL, many wondered what exactly that room would look like without him.
According to Ahmed, perhaps no one runs harder than the 5-foot, 7-inch, 186-pound McGrew, who is the smallest tailback on the roster.
“Sean plays like he’s 220 pounds,” Ahmed said. “He’ll run right through your chest, he’s one of those guys that’s been here for a long time, and he’s earned everything that’s come to him. He’s played really well this season, and he’s stayed consistent every time he gets a chance.”
And that’s been the key: chances. Every time each of these tailbacks gets their time to shine, they do.
When Ahmed didn’t travel to Provo for the BYU game due to injury, McGrew went over 100 yards for the first time in his career and powered a physical offense to a win, and just recently, without their short-yardage, power tailback, the UW nearly produced two 100 yard rushers.
And if the Huskies want to continue to win, they’ll need their two workhorses to produce on the ground. The vets of Washington’s tailback room have always been key fixtures in the Stable’s rotation, but moving forward, it will solely be on their shoulders to produce in the run game.
“That’s like a day one brother for me,” Ahmed said. “We’ve gone through this together, all the ups and downs, he’s my guy.”
Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AlecDietz
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