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UW run game has to keep going against the toughest the Pac-12 has to offer

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UW run game has to keep going against the toughest the Pac-12 has to offer

Salvon Ahmed gets tripped up by an Oregon defender in Washington's 35-31 loss on Oct. 19, 2019. The junior tailback had the most rushing yards of any player in the game with 140. 

The Washington football team didn’t beat No. 7 Oregon two Saturdays ago; the Ducks took the game, the bragging rights, and probably the Pac-12 North crown back to Eugene last weekend after leaving Husky Stadium.

But with a bye week to give them extra time to sit on the defeat, the Huskies had positives to reflect on.

“It almost felt like we won, because it was such a good game,” senior left tackle Trey Adams said. “I know that’s tough to say because we didn’t win, but I thought the offense played pretty well.”

For three quarters, the UW offense had one of its best games of the season, putting up three first-half touchdowns on an Oregon defense that had allowed its past three Pac-12 opponents to reach the end zone once.

A large part of that came down to junior Salvon Ahmed, who ran for 140 yards on a career-high 24 carries behind the UW offensive line.

“We definitely saw that we were able to do things, open things up, get a lot of things done,” Ahmed said. “We were executing well.”

The only problems? One third-quarter drive that stalled out in the red zone and two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter.

And, of course, the L in the result column — and an extra week to think about.

“It definitely makes it harder,” Ahmed said. “You’re sitting on a tough game, and you want to get out there and redeem yourselves.”

Since being held under 100 rushing yards for the only time this season against Stanford, the UW rushing attack has gotten its feet back under it. Playing short-staffed without redshirt Richard Newton for two games and junior Sean McGrew for one, the Huskies have averaged just over 4.2 yards per carry in their past two games and scored four rushing touchdowns.

What feels like a couple months later, Washington is finally going to get a chance to redeem itself, and against yet another stout defense. Statistically speaking, Utah has the best run defense in the nation, allowing just 56.4 yards per game. 

“Big, physical dudes that can run around and make plays,” Adams said. “It’s going to be a good test for us.”

Washington has had the edge in recent years against Utah, and it hasn’t been scheming around the Utes’ strengths. In both of the Huskies’ wins — once in the regular season and once in the Pac-12 Championship game — the UW surpassed 40 rushes. The first of them featured Myles Gaskin carrying the ball a career-high 30 times.

In the second, neither offense was able to find the end zone, but offensive line coach Scott Huff liked what he saw on the Dawgs’ 32 gives to tailbacks.

“We watched the film, and Coach Huff said that was some of the best line play we had all year,” Adams said. “We didn’t score, but assignment-wise it was pretty good.”

Adams called the UW and UU a pair of “really similar programs” run by two coaches — Chris Petersen and Kyle Wittingham — who have a lot in common in style and philosophy. Both teams want to win with a shutdown defense and a powerful running attack.

That means that when Washington tries to get back on a winning note Saturday, the Huskies will be doing so perhaps against their closest reflection in the Pac-12.

“We know they’re going to be a physical team, and we just want to go out there and be physical with them, show that we have strength too.”

Reach Managing Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum

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