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Brock Huard’s keys for No. 9 UW Huskies’ home opener vs North Dakota

UW Huskies RB Salvon Ahmed could be in a for big game vs. North Dakota. (AP)

After coming up short in a big season opener in Atlanta against Auburn, the No. 9 UW Huskies return home to take on North Dakota on Saturday.

UW Huskies drop 3 spots to No. 9 in AP Top 25 poll

As we do each week, we sat down with ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard as he broke down his five keys for Washington for their game against the Fighting Hawks at Husky Stadium. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Quarterback Jake Browning must take care of the ball.

It would be too easy just to say Browning needs to not turn the ball over, but taking care of the ball has to be his highest priority every game from here on out. Beyond that, he needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker. There were multiple opportunities vs. Auburn to get the ball in the flat, to throw the check down or hit the underneath shallow cross. Take what the defense gives you and take it in a hurry.

2. Get to work on addressing issues in the red zone.

Just about everything went wrong in the red zone for the Huskies’ offense in Atlanta. The horizontal run game, specifically on stretch plays and the fly sweep, was ineffective and poorly executed. The rub route was a catastrophe. The play-action passing was not creative. The precision of Jake’s passing and decision-making could be improved. And, oh yeah, while the option was great at Oregon two years ago from the 3-yard line, Jake running from outside of 5 yards is not.

3. Who to watch: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed and Jaxson Kirkland.

This feels like it could be an Engine No. 9 (Gaskin) and Salvon Ahmed kind of day. North Dakota has nowhere near the speed to contain and keep up with either running back, and the play-action pass should get plenty of work due to openings created by the run action. On the offensive line, I was actually blown away by right guard Jaxson Kirkland against Auburn. I thought he was UW’s best lineman and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of the run game going his way – especially with left tackle Trey Adams now reportedly lost for the season due to back surgery.

4. Build off of the encouraging things from the Auburn game.

In Atlanta, the wide receivers created separation and made tough catches against a fast and physical group. Kirkland was a stud and right tackle Kaleb McGary is too good to let a performance like last week bother him. The depth in the front seven played much better than the depth in those spots early last season. The secondary hit and flew around, though the defensive backs have to be disappointed in their lack of ball-hawking. That too must – and will – turn around.

5. Embrace playing at home after the letdown of Week 1.

Playing at home is the key. Even though students aren’t yet on campus, just getting to perform and play in your own house is bigger than the opponent. Feeding off the familiarity, the energy and the opportunity to get right at home is a huge positive.

O’Neil: Don’t direct frustration from UW’s loss to Auburn at Browning