With 2:20 left in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 28-14 win over USC on Saturday, UW freshman safety Cameron Williams leaped to secure his second interception of the day. At the edge of his own end zone, Williams tumbled to the turf, sprang up and flipped the football behind his back.
Then the 6-foot, 191-pound freshman — who grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., 115 miles north of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum — momentarily flashed USC’s “V for Victory” hand sign, before turning it toward the turf and sending an unmistakable message.
If they didn’t know it already, Husky fans learned that Williams’ allegiances have officially flipped.
Here’s three more things we learned from UW’s first Pac-12 win.
Jimmy Lake was ready for the Air Raid (again)
Entering Saturday’s game, USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had piled up 31 catches, 437 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt junior receiver Tyler Vaughns added 27 catches for 370 yards and two more scores. In the previous week’s upset win over Utah, Pittman erupted for 10 catches, 232 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Vaughns notched a score of his own.
UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake knew he needed to do something different to neutralize the Trojans’ two most consistent contributors.
So that’s what he did.
The UW defense effectively bracketed Pittman and Vaughns throughout Saturday’s game, assigning a corner to each receiver while placing another DB over the top. Pittman finished with four catches for 64 yards, the majority of which came on a 44-yard touchdown that was made possible by Williams biting on play-action. Vaughns contributed a measly four catches for 44 yards. It was the fewest receptions of the season for both players.
Essentially, Lake dared redshirt junior quarterback Matt Fink and the Trojans’ other skill players to beat them. They couldn’t do it.
After the game, Lake said that he couldn’t recall another occasion in which he bracketed a pair of opposing receivers the same way.
Needless to say, the Trojans couldn’t see it coming.
Salvon Ahmed is healthy
As the USC game approached, the Huskies’ starting running back was officially listed as “week to week,” after he missed the first game of his career the week before with a leg injury.
There was no guarantee that the 5-foot-11, 196-pound junior would play Saturday. And if he did play, would he be able to bring his trademark burst? Would he produce?
The highlight, of course, was Ahmed’s dazzling 89-yard dash to pay dirt in the third quarter, which he later confirmed was the longest run of his life. If there was any lingering doubt about his leg, it instantly evaporated.
As for Ahmed? His eyes were fixed on the end zone.
“When you see something that could be a big play, your eyes are going to get wide,” he said. “But I think it’s important to stay calm. Don’t let the moment get too big and make a mistake. You treat every run like it’s going to be a big run. And if it’s not, you just keep going.”
Ahmed kept going, and going, and going Saturday. He finished with a career-best 153 rushing yards, 9 yards per carry and a touchdown. The Huskies rushed for 193 yards, 5.5 yards per carry and three scores; they’ve eclipsed 180 rushing yards and 4 yards per carry in all five games this season.
So, yes: Ahmed is officially healthy, as is the Husky ground game.
“I think the one (Ahmed) run was what made it a career day,” coach Chris Petersen said, “and that was game-changing.”
The Husky kickers came through
Finally, we’ve reached the special-teams appreciation segment.
Or, more specifically, the kicker appreciation segment.
Kicker Peyton Henry converted two more field goals, from 28 and 35 yards. The sophomore, who was recently placed on scholarship, has knocked through all nine field-goal attempts and 22 extra points through five games this season.
9-9 on field goals.
22-22 on extra points.
Take a second and let those literally perfect numbers sink into your skin.
But punter Joel Whitford is also not to be forgotten. The senior from Australia dropped three of six punts inside the 20-yard line, with a long of 56 yards. He forced fair catches by USC returner Amon-Ra St. Brown at the 11- and 15-yard lines. Early in the fourth quarter, he yanked a pitching wedge out of the bag, added a healthy helping of back spin and placed a 45-yard punt perfectly on the Trojan 2-yard line.
Through five games, UW is allowing an average of 3.5 yards per punt return, which ranks second in the Pac-12 and 28th nationally. The Trojans produced a grand total of 6 punt-return yards.
Especially early, this was a field-position game — and Whitford was a weapon for Washington.