SEATTLE (AP) — Myles Gaskin missed the first game of his career with Washington last weekend, which speaks to the durability of the Huskies’ star running back after 3 ½ seasons as the primary ball carrier.
And yet, even without Gaskin in uniform, No. 15 Washington managed to rush for a season-high 201 yards as a team in the victory over Colorado, showing there is more than just one running option in the Huskies’ backfield.
“Myles is and will always be a key part of our offense, he’s an excellent tailback, and an even better guy. Of course he is the guy we want in our backfield as often as possible,” said Washington right tackle Kaleb McGary. “I think we have a great group of (offensive) lineman who can make it happen even if he’s not there. Hopefully, he breathes a little easier knowing it’s OK for him to take a rest. He’s a tough dude and I’ve seen him take some shots that would be tough for us 300 pounders to take.”
While Washington (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) struggled to shake Colorado until late in the fourth quarter, the victory did prove the Huskies can field a successful offense even with Gaskin as a spectator.
Salvon Ahmed rushed for 73 yards on just nine carries and likely would have had a bigger game if not for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his touchdown run that landed him on the bench for a chunk of time. Sean McGrew had 58 yards rushing and Kamari Pleasant added 35 yards, both running for touchdowns in the victory.
They weren’t staggering numbers. But collectively they gave Washington the kind of balance Chris Petersen wants from his offense.
“Stuff happens in this game, it’s a violent game, you need to have depth. Some guys have to come in and make some plays,” quarterback Jake Browning said. “I think Sean and Kamari did some good stuff, Salvon continued to play at a high level like he has all season.”
Ahmed has received the most attention because of his blazing speed and his high profile as a high school recruit. He’s had flashy moments in his two seasons, but has yet to run for 100 yards in a game, in part because he’s often on the field only to give Gaskin a break.
The development of McGrew and Pleasant has also played into how carries are spread around. While Ahmed has breakaway speed, McGrew is a patient runner in a style similar to Gaskin, while Pleasant is a bigger back who can be used in short-yardage situations.
Best of all for Washington’s future: all three are sophomores.
“Maybe what I’ve learned is I didn’t learn anything. They’ve done exactly what I thought they would do. And I think they’ve done what our whole offensive staff thought they would do,” Petersen said Monday of McGrew and Pleasant. “I mean those guys are good players and they can make yards for us, and it’s good to see those guys get in their meaningful reps and do what we think they can do. That’s really what it’s kind of been. I don’t think there’s been a bunch of surprises.”
Petersen sounded optimistic that Gaskin could return this week, but it may make sense to give his injured shoulder more rest given the next opponent — California, which gave up 260 yards rushing against Oregon and 207 against UCLA.
Petersen also said tight end Hunter Bryant is moving closer to making his season debut after injuring his knee in the offseason.
“We are getting close. I will give you that,” he said.