The Huskies pulled out a workmanlike, sometimes dreary victory over a solid Colorado squad on Saturday. While questioning a 14-point conference victory would be akin to a dental exam on a complimentary equine, the result leaves open lingering questions about whether this Husky team has the upside of a conference champion. Who made the outcome possible? Let’s look at the game awards.
Offensive MVP: Salvon Ahmed, 9 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD
One disappointing characteristic of this year’s UW team has been a lack of game-breaking ability on offense. A lot has to go right for a team to string together a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive, which is precisely why successful offenses cannot live on that diet alone. This offense does not have a John Ross or Dante Pettis who add a touchdown or two to that ledger with pure play-making electricity. On top of that, Jake Browning has had to make do without the physical talent of Trey Adams and Hunter Bryant all year, as well as Myles Gaskin this week.
With all of those deficits, UW needed someone to step into the play-making role to augment the slow-and-steady attack- a hare to Browning’s tortoise. Enter Salvon Ahmed. While Kamari Pleasant and Sean McGrew respectably shouldered the load with a combined 22 carries for 93 yards, Ahmed provided the spark that the offense needed. His 73 yards included three carries of 14 yards or more against a defense that had been particularly stingy against big ground plays. His touchdown only covered seven yards, but again showed the breakaway speed that the Huskies offense has struggled to find all year.
The biggest drawback on Ahmed’s day was a 15-yard penalty for a throat-slash gesture after he found the end zone. I can understand why the officials found that gesture problematic, but I fear they misinterpreted Ahmed. With Halloween around the corner, he merely wanted to pay homage to Icabod Crane, not menace a well-meaning Buff.
Defensive MVP: Ben Burr-Kirven, 15 tackles (8 solo), 1 Int, 1 PD
Defense is always a team effort. It’s no knock on BBK to say that he relies in part on his defensive front to set him up to finish plays. After all, he has become an expert at finishing plays for limited gains while the big men up front occupy blockers who want to get to the second level. BBK totaled another 15 tackles, broke up a pass, and intercepted another for his first INT of the season. The INT sealed the victory and allowed fans to exhale after Colorado narrowly stayed in the game over their previous few drives.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the day for BBK and the Husky defensive front is Colorado RB Travon McMillan’s line. McMillan managed only 3.4 yards on 25 carries, and only 16% of his carries qualified as “successful” from a down-and-distance standpoint. In other words, the Buffs handed McMillan the ball 25 times and only got sufficient yardage to make the carry worthwhile on four of those hand-offs.
Outside of BBK, the rest of the defensive front deserves a lot of credit. Greg Gaines wreaked his usual amount of havoc up front and took up multiple blockers more often than not. Levi Onwuzurike continued to demonstrate a knack for shedding blockers and getting up field in a way that makes it nearly impossible to set up anything that takes time to develop. With Jaylen Johnson serving a targeting suspension in the first half, the defensive coaches dusted off Ryan Bowman and he rewarded them with constant QB pressure and 1.5 TFL. BBK’s partner on the inside of the second-level, Tevis Bartlett, also had a TFL and forced a fumble that unluckily bounced Colorado’s way. Like I said, it was a team effort. But if one person deserves the most glory, it was BBK once again.