Sunday, October 2, 2011

Polk helps lead Huskies to dominant second half winning 31-14 over Utah

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(4-1,2-0) led by Chris Polk rushing for a season high 189 yards dominated the second half in beating the Utah Utes(2-2,0-2) 31-14 on the road. The Huskies scored 24 unanswered points including 21 in the fourth quarter to silent the Utes crowd. The Huskies in the third quarter had almost 200 yards of total offense compared to just 23 yards for the Utes. Polk had 105 yards rushing in the third quarter alone while Keith Price continued his streak of throwing for at least three touchdown passes in a game to five. Price would finish the game throwing for 226 yards with three touchdowns. The line of scrimmage was dominated by the Huskies as they ran for 185 yards compared to just 17 for the Utes. The Huskies survived a rough first half then took advantage of the second half. For a defense who has been bashed on they have put together six straight good quarters of football. The game couldn't have started off any better for the Huskies who are hoping to take this momentum past the bye week.

The Huskies won the opening kickoff and elected to receive for the second half. On the opening kickoff the Utes kickoff returner Charles Henderson was tackled by Garret Gilliland who then forced the fumble. The fumble was recovered by Jamaal Kearse who ran it in for an 18 yard touchdown return. The last name should sound familiar as Jamaal is the younger brother of Jermaine Kearse. The Utes would avoid the turnover on their next kickoff return but would be forced to go three and out. All the momentum was wearing purple at that stage of the game. On the Huskies opening possession from their own 28 yard line they would begin with a Polk run of seven yards, Price would then hit Polk for a gain of seven yards. Price would hit Kearse for a gain of 17 yards while following that up with a seven yard run. Facing a third and three from the Utes 34 the Huskies would call for a toss sweep to Polk for a gain of two yards setting up a key fourth and one. The Utes this time would win the battle of the line of scrimmage stopping Polk short. The momentum had suddenly shifted to wearing red.

The Utes took advantage of the fourth down stop. Jordan Wynn connected to Devonte Christopher for a gain of 36 yards down the sideline to the Huskies 32 yard line. The play was originally called a touchdown but he was ruled out of bounds. Wynn would hit a 12 yard pass to the Huskies 20 yard line. After two short gains the Utes were facing a key third and six from the Huskies 16 yard line. That is when the game would be tied up when Wynn would hit Dres Anderson for a 16 yard touchdown to tie the game up. The Utes made that drive look easy but nobody thought that would be the Utes last score until 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Huskies would record some key stops on the Utes in the redzone to stay in the game in the first half.

During the course of the first half the Utes had several opportunities to take the lead over the Huskies. The first drive that led to nothing was when the Utes were facing a fourth and one from the Huskies 31 yard line. After a false start the Utes went for it on fourth down and failed to convert. The following drive the Utes drove 53 yards on 10 plays but the Huskies came up with a huge interception by Sean Parker. The Utes once again had a nice drive going but would fumble the ball on the Huskies six yard line. The Huskies would finish the half going on a 12 play 68 yard drive ending with Erik Folk making a 44 yard field goal. Despite being outgained by 54 yards the Huskies led at halftime 10-7. Keith Price was only 8-12 passing for 81 yards with an interception. While Chris Polk had been shut down to 44 yards on 12 carries(3.7 YPC). While the Utes were led by Jordan Wynn who was 12-17 passing for 149 yards with a touchdown but a costly interception. The Huskies had stopped Shawn White holding him to just 28 yards rushing on 10 carries(2.8 YPC). Although the Utes dominated the first half they found themselves trailing. The Huskies would come out and play their best half of the season to put the game away.

The Huskies would begin the second half like they begin the first half by scoring a touchdown. The drive would begin with a Bishop Sankey four yard run up the middle then the big play would happen next. Chris Polk would enter the game and announce he was ready to go this second half. Polk would bust a run for 49 yards to the Utah 27 yard line. Price would hit Jermaine Kearse for a five yard gain then have a dropped pass setting up a key third and five from the 22 yard line. Price would hit freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a gain of 13 yards to the Utes nine yard line. After a short run by Polk that is when Steve Sarkisian called a beautiful play. The Huskies ran a wide receiver screen to freshman Kasen Williams who had some key blocks. Williams would score an eight yard touchdown to give the Huskies a 17-7 lead over the Utes.

After trading punts the Utes lost their starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Jon Hays. Starting on their own 14 yard line the Utes called for a fade pass which was played beautifully by the Huskies Greg Ducre who intercepted the pass at the Huskies 48 yard line. After an incomplete pass, Polk had a 14 yard run to the Utes 38 yard line. Price would hit James Johnson down the middle for a 15 yard reception to the Utes 23 yard line. Price would throw a quick pass to Kearse who made the defender miss as he sprinted up the sideline for the touchdown to give the Huskies a 24-7 lead. The Huskies had came out in the second half taking it to the Utes. This was a different Keith Price in the second half and the third quarter would end with the Huskies up 24-7. The Huskies had played their best quarter in the Sarkisian era. The defense was continuing stopping the Utes offense while the Huskies offense wouldn't let up. The Huskies would put the game away on the following drive to seal the deal something they hadn't done all season long.

The Huskies would begin with the ball on their own 26 yard line after Utah elected to punt on fourth and one from midfield. The game would be put away as the Huskies would go on a 14 play 74 yard drive taking up over seven minutes. After a loss of four yards Polk would rush for eight yards setting up a key third and six from their own 30 yard line. Price would hit Seferian-Jenkins over the middle for a gain of 11 yards to their own 41 yard line. Polk would rush for a gain of nine yards to the 50 yard line as the third quarter had ended. Polk would rush for the first down, then rush for eight yards. On third and three from the Utes 41 yard line Price would rush for six yards to extend the drive. Price would hit Kearse for a gain of seven, facing yet another third down Price would hit Kearse for the first down to the Utes 21 yard line. On third and six from the Utes 17 yard line Price would hit Devin Aguilar for a 17 yard touchdown pass. That would be the 17th passing touchdown of the season for Price who equaled Jake Locker's total from all of last season. The Utes would score a late touchdown which had no barring on the game. The Huskies would win the game 31-14 over the Utes in an impressive road win.

For the Huskies this was an extremely impressive win. The Huskies were 10 point underdogs and totally dominated the second half. The defense for the second straight week has shown improvement which has been a trademark for Nick Holt. Sarkisian saw his offense struggle in the first half only to rebound in the second half putting up 299 total yards offense in the second half alone. The Huskies were led by Chris Polk who ran for the second highest total of his career with 189 yards rushing on 29 carries(6.5 YPC) while catching three passes for 16 yards. The sophomore quarterback who was recruited by Utah then later pulled their offer made them pay. Keith Price finished the game 22-30(73.3%) for 226 yards(7.5 YPA) with three touchdowns and one interception. Like he has done all year long Price was spreading the ball around. Price completed a pass to eight different receivers led by Jermaine Kearse who had seven receptions for 70 yards with a touchdown. Devin Aguilar added two receptions for 40 yards with a touchdown, James Johnson had three for 37 yards, Austin Seferian-Jenkins had three for 32 yards and Kasen Williams had two for 30 yards with a touchdown. The Huskies defense forced five turnovers from the Utes while allowing only 322 yards offense(156 in the second half) and more importantly shut down the run. The Huskies held the Utes to just 17 yards rushing on 23 carries(0.7 YPC). The Huskies led by senior captain Cort Dennison who his hometown team didn't even recruit once again stepped up. The defense carried the team in the first half and then was dominate in the second half.

All in all, the Huskies improve to 4-1 and 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 2006 season. Heading into the bye week at 4-1 is huge for this team as they are about to face a tough part in their schedule. The team is improving each and every week which has been nice to see. The best part about the win today was all the second half adjustments which you never saw from the previous coaching staff. The Huskies in the second half dominated the line of scrimmage which was beautiful to watch as a fan who suffered through the Willingham era. The Huskies defense in Pac-12 play has looked pretty good as well. This was a great team win for the Huskies as their offense continues to shred their opponents for 34 points per game average led by Price and Polk. Sarkisian has this program heading in the right direction and you are seeing the young players making big plays for him as well.


- The play of Keith Price was once again terrific on the road. What was most impressive about Price was for the first time all year he played poorly in a half. Then in the second half was on target hitting his passes which shows his mental toughness. Price finished the game 22-30 passing for 226 yards with three more touchdowns. After a rough first half Price finished the second half completing 14-18(77.8%) for 145 yards(8.1 YPA) with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Huskies punted only once in the second half due to Price hitting his passes when the game mattered most.

For the season Price has completed 97-142(68.3%) of his passes for 1,209 yards(8.5 YPA) through five games. He has also thrown for 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions on the season. In all five games this year Price has thrown for at least three touchdown passes. Price has been very accurate when the Huskies need big throws. Price is also making plays with his mobility avoiding sacks then turning that into a big gain. With Price you can't focus on one receiver either as he is always finding the open man. Sarkisian called him out at halftime and Price answered the challenge showing that he is going to be a keeper for the Huskies for years to come.

- When a kid plays high school football he has aspirations to play for his home team. For Cort Dennison he played high school football in Salt Lake, Utah yet wasn't even offered a scholarship by the Utah Utes. Dennison was only a two-star recruit coming out of high school. The Utes passed on both Dennison and Price so this was a big game for both. Price stepped up in the second half proving the Utes offered the wrong quarterback the scholarship.

While Dennison and his other 10 guys on the field shut down the Utes offense. The defense caused five turnovers while keeping the Huskies in the game in the first half. The Huskies have allowed just 17 points in their last six quarters which is some major improvement from the start of the season. The Huskies shut down John White who had 35 yards rushing on 14 carries(2.5 YPC). The Huskies forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes. This game had to feel great for Dennison to return to his home city to walk away with a victory while the defense played terrific.

- Chris Polk has had a solid season but to date has yet to have a break out game. Well today he had just that with 189 yards on 29 carries both are season highs. Polk like Price was shut down in the first half. In the second half though Polk ran for 145 yards on just 17 carries(8.5 YPC). With Polk rushing for all those yards including 105 in the third quarter alone that allowed Price to hit some key play action passes. The Huskies also controlled the time of possession in the second half as well. Polk for the year now has four 100+ yard rushing performances and has went over 100 totals yards in every game this season. For Polk that is the 15th time in his Huskies career he went over 100 yards. He is just two games shy of tying Napoleon Kaufman for most 100 yard games. Polk also moved past Joe Steele for second all-time in Huskies history with rushing yards as he went over 3,000 career yards.

For the season Polk has carried the ball 116 times for 603 yards(5.2 YPC) with three rushing touchdowns. Polk also has 10 receptions for 128 yards with a touchdown as well. Polk is big time for the Huskies as he is a powerful back who has improved on his speed. His 49 yard run to open the second half set the tone for the entire second half. The Huskies offensive line after playing so terribly in the first half played terrific in the second half. The line of scrimmage was controlled by the Huskies and Polk set the tone for a terrific win. Polk is easily one of the greatest running backs to ever play for the Huskies and he is adding to his legend this season.

-  I felt this game was a strange game for Sarkisian. His play calling was some head scratchers which reverted back to last season. Having said that his second half game adjustments was key. Given that this was a road game which the Huskies were underdogs that was the best second half I've seen from the Huskies in a decade. Sarkisian is silencing his critics with each and every victory. Sarkisian is now 16-14 as Huskies head coach the most he has ever been over .500 while at Washington a program who was 12-47 the previous five years including 0-12 right before he took over. His offense is averaging 34 points per game and despite losing a quarterback to the NFL the passing attack has actually improved. Sarkisian has stockpiled some good recruits as the Huskies have several young key players making plays.

In conclusion, this was a very big win for the Huskies program. This win illustrates that this team is a program on the rise. This win will probably put the Huskies in the top 25 rankings which they were ranked for only one week in the 2009 season and prior to that the 2003 season. This wasn't the biggest win in the Sarkisian era but this was certainly the most impressive win in the Sarkisian era. The Huskies won by a blowout on the road considering their last three road wins were by a combined 11 points winning by 17 is pretty impressive. The Huskies will head into the bye week then take on Colorado at home in two weeks. The Huskies are 4-1 looking to be 5-1 for the first time since 2001. The Huskies haven't been 3-0 in conference play since the 1997 season. For Sarkisian and Nick Holt this win has to feel pretty good as their critics were silenced this week. For the Huskies it feels good to be watching quality football once again as they have won eight of their last nine games dating back to last season.

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