No. 17 Washington was trending toward falling in the same old hole they did in a loss to Cal earlier this season, with big drops, lackluster red zone trips and a number of blown assignments holding back the Huskies from taking full control of a pivotal Pac-12 contest. Luckily tailback Salvon Ahmed was back in the lineup and proved to be fully healthy in breaking off a game-breaking 89 yard touchdown run that all but cemented their eventual 28-14 win over No. 21 USC on Saturday afternoon.
Ahmed wound up finishing with 153 yards on the day in his return to action after missing last week’s win over BYU, helping pace an offense that was solid but unspectacular in a situation where they simply didn’t execute up to a level you expect out of a Chris Petersen-coached team. A lot of that had to do with several overthrows and drops in the passing game, which was far from crisp on an otherwise perfect fall day on Montlake. QB Jacob Eason recorded only 180 yards on 16 completions and failed to find the end zone through the air.
Richard Newton chipped in with 20 yards and a score of his own on the ground, while wideout Andre Baccellia complemented two catches for 13 yards by falling on a fumble in the end zone for a big score late in the first half. The Huskies did move into the red zone two other times but had to settle for a pair of Peyton Henry field goals otherwise the final score could have been a lot more comfortable for the purple and gold.
The outcome probably wasn’t too surprising for those that follow the Trojans given how beat up the team was coming in. Matt Fink started for the first time on the road at quarterback in place of Kedon Slovis, who reportedly travelled to Seattle but didn’t play after suffering a concussion last week in the win against Utah. The veteran quarterback had a few moments where he flashed (one long TD pass to Michael Pittman, one scramble for a rushing score) but far more where he didn’t (163 yards passing, three bad interceptions that led to points the other way) against one of the league’s best defenses.
The end result dropped USC to 3-2 on the year, which somehow still allows them to stay in the thick of the Pac-12 South race but makes life difficult overall for head coach Clay Helton. The team heads into their off week with plenty of questions beyond the quarterback position and still has to travel to South Bend to face a Notre Dame squad in the top 10. The loss to the Huskies only further cements the head coach’s spot on the hot seat and the number of penalties and defensive lapses are enough to cause many in the cardinal and gold pining for a change being made sooner rather than later.
As for Washington, they’ll hit the road as well the next few weeks against Stanford and Arizona as that battle with No. 13 Oregon looms in the middle of next month as possibly the game of the year in the Pac-12 North.