Monday, October 31, 2011

Polk sets records as Huskies become bowl eligible with 42-31 win over Wildcats!

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(6-2,4-1) won't need any late season surges this year to go to a bowl game as they took care of business. The Huskies defeated the Arizona Wildcats(2-6,1-5) 42-31 led by five touchdowns by Chris Polk. Polk set plenty of Husky game milestones and Husky career milestones today in the win over the Wildcats. Polk rushed for 144 yards with four rushing touchdowns while also having 100 yards receiving with a receiving touchdown as well. The Huskies defense came up big in the redzone and forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter as the Huskies overcame an early 10 point deficit to prevail. The passing game which is a speciality under Steve Sarkisian struggled not because of Keith Price but due to some dropped passes by veteran receivers. So the Huskies with the game on the line turned to their youngsters Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith who each came up with huge receptions. This time the last two seasons the Huskies were 3-5 while right now they are 6-2 which is their best start since 2001. Polk for the second straight week has submitted a ton of highlights to show NFL scouts as he prepares for his NFL career next season.

The game started off horribly for the Huskies as the Wildcats won the toss and took the opening possession into Huskies territory. Nick Foles completed his first pass to Juron Criner for a gain of 16 yards. Foles completed back to back passes for 22 yards to the Huskies 27 yard line. The Wildcats ran the ball three straight times including on third and two where they came up a yard short. Facing a fourth and one from the Huskies 18 yard line the Wildcats elected to kick the field goal on the road which was good to give them a 3-0 lead. Defensively the Huskies were facing a third and two on their first drive of the game. Price who had an open fullback in the flat held onto the ball as he was sacked for a loss of 11 yards as the Wildcats three and outed the mighty Huskies offense on the opening drive of the game. The Wildcats would take advantage of that stop on the Huskies offense.

The Wildcats second drive started on their own 34 yard line. Facing a third and seven the Huskies jumped offsides, also held the receiver then had a bad personal foul called on Sean Parker giving the Wildcats 15 yards and an automatic first down. Foles then completed a pass to set up a third and two from the Huskies 40 yard line. The Wildcats then rushed for five yards to record the first down. Foles completed another pass for 11 yards to the Huskies 24 yard line. Nick Holt dialed up a blitz and this time was burned for it as Greg Ducre was left on an island. Foles hit Criner for a medium gain which he broke the tackle of Ducre as he went into the endzone for a 24 yard touchdown. The Wildcats led 10-0 as the first quarter came to an end as this was the first time all season long the Huskies were shutout in the first quarter. The Huskies offense would once again go three and out as the Wildcats took over up 10-0. After driving all the way to the Huskies 43 yard line the Huskies forced a punt on the Wildcats and took over on their own 20 yard line.

The Huskies began the drive with an eight yard run to Polk but Kearse committed an away from the ball 15 yard penalty making it second and 17 from the 13 yard line. After a Polk run for four yards the Huskies were once again in a third and long situation. That is when Price started to play Keith Price football as he hit Devin Aguilar with a bullet pass for 21 yards. Polk ran for 14 more yards to the Wildcats 47 yard line. Sarkisian called a play action pass but Austin Seferian-Jenkins couldn't come up with the ball. Price hit Kevin Smith for a gain of eight yards setting up a third and two. Polk lined up as the fullback took the direct handoff for a gain of six yards to the Wildcats 33. On second and nine from the 32 is when the Huskies had to overcome some adversity. Price on a play action pass hit Michael Hartvigson to the one yard line. The officials then called that pass incomplete despite Hartvigson having the ball in his one hand was stumbling took five steps towards the one yard line stretched out for the touchdown then the ball hit the ground as he landed on the ground. Sarkisian then challenged the call thinking the replays would prove that was a catch instead the officials continued on with the crap call as the Huskies had to face a crucial third and nine. Price hit a critical pass to James Johnson for a gain of 16 yards and then Johnson was facemasked for eight more yards to the Wildcats eight yard line. After a short two yard run Price then throw what was ruled a lateral pass to Jermaine Kearse. Kearse due to a key block by Johnson scored the six yard touchdown. Many thought at the time that was the 29th career touchdown reception for Kearse putting him one behind Mario Bailey instead that was ruled a rushing touchdown for Kearse. The Huskies more importantly pulled within 10-7 as their offense showed they weren't going down so easily.

The Wildcats would respond to the Huskies score with a score of their own. Foles would hit Criner for a gain of 12 yards to their own 43 yard line. Foles then completed a broken play that went  22 yards  to Ka'Deem Carey to the Huskies 36 yard line. The Huskies defense though would force back to back stops setting up a third and four from the 30 yard line. It had appeared Foles could have ran for the first down but attempted a pass which fell incomplete. The Wildcats were forced to kick a 47 yard field goal which was good to give them a 13-7 lead. Despite having scored three times to the Huskies only scoring once the Wildcats were up by less than a touchdown. The Huskies offense would on the next drive would make the Wildcats pay for having to settle for two early field goals instead of touchdowns.

The Huskies responded to the Wildcats with a drive of their own and a little bit of some trickery. On the first play of the series from their own 41 after a Kevin Smith 30 yard kickoff return. Price threw a pass to Aguilar behind the line of scrimmage who then threw a pass crossfield to Chris Polk for a gain of 33 yards to the Wildcats 26 yard line. The play was reviewed as Polk and the Wildcats defender both came down with the ball but it was ruled a catch. The following play Price hit Kearse over the middle for a gain of 19 yards to the Wildcats seven yard line. Polk would rush for three yards then three yards again setting up a third and goal from the one. The Huskies then had a false start penalty setting up a third and goal from the six. Price attempted a pass over the middle but the Wildcats were called for pass interference giving the Huskies the ball first and goal from the two yard line. Polk was tackled for a one yard loss then Price threw an incomplete pass. The Huskies got to the line quickly and called a quick hitter to Polk up the middle for a gain of two yards to the one yard line. Setting up a fourth and goal from the one yard line which Sarkisian was going to go for it unlike the Wildcats earlier in the game. The Huskies on that play did an excellent job sealing off the defensive end as Polk ran to the right for the touchdown to give the Huskies a 14-13 lead which they would hold at halftime.

The Huskies began the second half by continuing the momentum with another big kickoff return by Smith which went for 45 yards to the 50 yard line. The drive began with a Bishop Sankey run for nine yards to the Wildcats 41 setting up a second and one. Sarkisian called a play action pass which Price had intercepted into triple coverage but the Wildcats were called for pass interference giving the Huskies the ball on the Wildcats 26 yard line. Price hit Kearse for a gain of nine yards to the left on a bubble screen to the 17 yard line. On second and one the Huskies had another play action pass which Price hit Polk on a fade pass for a 17 yard touchdown giving the Huskies a 21-13 lead over the Wildcats. The momentum was wearing purple now as the Wildcats were moving the ball to the Huskies 49 yard line when Foles was intercepted by Nate Fellner at the Huskies 32 yard line. First play for the Huskies Price hit Polk on another go route for 43 yards to the Wildcats 25 yard line. Looking to put the Wildcats away Price was scrambling around saw Johnson and delivered the pass to Johnson. This is when the Wildcats would avoid the blowout and make this a game again. Johnson caught the pass but was bobbling the pass as he was running towards the nine yard line when the Wildcats defender Robert Golden caught the pass for the interception. Golden then went across field for a 91 yard interception for the touchdown. Foles would complete the two point conversation and just like that the game was tied at 21-21 as Husky Stadium was dead quiet.

With the game now tied after it had appeared the Huskies were ready to put the Wildcats away Sarkisian went back to basics. The Huskies began possession on their own 24 when Polk ran to the right for a gain of 19 yards to their own 43 yard line. After a short loss by Polk, Price completed a pass to Aguilar for a gain of five setting up a critical third and six. Price then delivered a pass to Kearse for seven yards for the first down. On the next play Price hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins over the middle for a gain of 14 yards to the Wildcats 32. After a one yard pass to DiAndre Campbell, Polk ran for eight yards setting up a third and one. Once again the Huskies used Polk as a fullback and gave it to Polk for a gain of three yards to the Wildcats 20 yard line. Price ran for 11 yards to set up first and goal from the nine yard line. After an incomplete pass, Sarkisian called a run up the middle to Polk which should have only netted five yards instead his run for eight yards set up a third and goal from the one. Polk rushed to the right for the one yard touchdown giving the Huskies a 28-21 lead.

The Wildcats began their drive on their own 35 yard line. Foles started the drive with a 16 yard pass completion plus the Huskies also had a 15 yard penalty for a helmet to helmet hit giving the Wildcats the ball on the Huskies 34 yard line. Foles hit Criner for a gain of 12 yards to the Huskies 22 yard line. Foles completed another pass for 13 yards to the nine yard line. Foles capped the drive by hitting Criner on a nice fade pass which was well covered for the touchdown to tie the score up at 28-28. The Huskies offense responded with a three and out as the Wildcats took possession of the ball on their own 30 yard line. After back to back six yard runs by Carey, Foles completed a seven yard pass to Criner to the Wildcats 49 yard line. Facing a third and three Foles then completed a 41 yard pass to Criner to the Huskies 10 yard line. Criner ran for a gain of five yards as the quarter ended setting up a second and goal from the five. The Huskies defense would get tough and hold the Wildcats to another short field goal that would be the Wildcats third field goal of the game as they led 31-28 over the Huskies.

The Huskies would drive to the Wildcats 42 before Price would throw his third interception of the game as Johnson slipped right after Kearse had just dropped a wide open touchdown. The Huskies defense would keep their hopes alive by forcing a three and out. The Huskies took over on their own 19 yard line. In a shotgun formation Price faked handing it off to Polk and kept it himself for a gain of 11 yards to the 30 yard line. On second and nine from the 31 yard line Price would hit Kasen Williams over the middle for a slant then Williams bounced off the defender and dragged the Wildcat defenders for a gain of 48 yards. To date that has been Williams biggest play in a Huskies uniform. On second and 10 the Huskies had a gain of nine called back due to holding setting them back second and 20 from the Wildcats 31 yard line. Price would hit Smith who would make a defender miss for a gain of 26 yards to the Wildcats five. That is when Sarkisian wasn't messing around anymore as they ran a stretch play to Polk to the right as Colin Tanigawa made a key block as he pulled for the Huskies to take a 35-31 lead. For Polk that was his fourth touchdown of the game and third rushing of the game.

The Wildcats had the ball on their own 27 with under nine minutes left in the game. Foles started the drive hitting an 18 yard pass. He then completed another six yard pass to the Huskies 49 yard line. This is when after all game long of having breaks go against them the Huskies finally caught a huge break. Foles hit Criner for a gain of nine yards then fumbled as Prince Fuiamaono recovered for 10 yards to midfield as the Huskies took over. Price on a play action pass went downfield to Kearse for a gain of 24 yards to the Wildcats 26 yard line. Polk ran for 14 yards to the Wildcats 12 yard line. On the next carry Polk ran for one  yard which tied him with Napoleon Kaufman as the only Husky running backs to ever eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a season for the third straight year. Earlier in the game Polk broke Kaufman's record for most 100 yard rushing games with 18. With second and nine Polk was cramping so he had to leave the game as Jesse Callier ran for eight yards to set up third and one as Polk came back out. On third and one from the three Polk was met in the backfield but powered through the defender for the first down. On the next play Polk scored his fifth touchdown of the game as he scored from two yards out to give the Huskies a 42-31 lead with under four minutes to go in the game.

Arizona now down two scores started off on their own 30 yard line. Foles completed a 13 yard pass to the 43 yard line. After a short one yard pass Foles completed a 21 yard pass to the Huskies 35 yard line. That is when Fuiamaono rushed from the left side to chase Foles down to the right with a sack for a loss of 13 yards as time was ticking for the Wildcats. After Foles completed a 13 yard pass setting up a third and 10 with 2:37 left in the game. Foles threw an interception to true sophomore safety Sean Parker to ice the game. After the Huskies grinded down the clock the Wildcats had the ball with under a minute to go. With 48 seconds left in the game Cort Dennison jumped a Foles pass returning it 12 yards to ice the game as the Huskies won 42-31 to become bowl eligible. The Wildcats lost despite Foles going 32-50(64.0%) for 388 yards(7.8 YPA) with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His main target was Juron Criner who had 11 receptions for 118 yards with two touchdowns but a costly fumble.

 For the Huskies they were led by Chris Polk who carried the ball 34 times for 144 yards(4.2 YPC) with four rushing touchdowns while also having four receptions for 100 yards(25.0 YPC) with a touchdown as well. The Huskies passing attack struggled due to several dropped passes which reflected in Keith Price's numbers as he was 16-30(53.3%) for 277 yards(9.2 YPA) with a touchdown but three interceptions. His main receivers besides Polk was Kasen Williams who had two receptions for 60 yards including a very big 48 yard reception. Jermaine Kearse once again struggled with dropped passes ended up with four receptions for 59 yards(14.8 YPC) with a rushing touchdown of six yards. Kevin Smith also had a good all around game with two receptions for 34 yards while also having 150 yards in kickoff return yards(30.0 AVG) including twice almost breaking one for a touchdown.James Johnson was held to just one reception for 16 yards. Devin Aguilar had two receptions for 26 yards while also completing a pass for 33 yards as the Huskies are going bowling.

All in all, last year the Huskies were 3-5 as senior leader Jake Locker was injured heading into their next week. The Huskies are healthy this year and coming off a win when preparing for the Ducks. The Huskies haven't came into the Oregon game off a win since 2002 and haven't entered the Oregon game with a winning record since 2000. The Huskies offense continues to score points as Price leads the passing game while Polk continues to set records at Washington. Sarkisian has had his bumps along the way but is 10-2 in his last 12 games and the Huskies are going to a bowl game in back to back years for the first time since the 2002 season. The Huskies overcame bad breaks, bad calls and an early deficit to pull this win out like good teams do.


- Despite what the stats say I think Price played a pretty good football game. He had a touchdown taken away from him on the Kearse play because that was technically a lateral. Kearse also dropped a touchdown later in the game and the Michael Hartvigson play wiped away a 31 yard pass for him. He also had Seferian-Jenkins drop a 20 yard pass not to mention two of his three interceptions hit the receivers in both hands while the third interception the receiver got tripped. Price did help move the chains as the Huskies were 7-15 on third downs and 1-1 on fourth downs. Price hit some critical passes whenever the Huskies needed a third down pass. He also didn't lose faith in his guys as the Huskies were up 35-31 he trusted Kearse who came up with a big 24 yard catch. Trailing 31-28 on second and nine he trusted fourth receiver and true freshman Kasen Williams who delivered a 48 yard reception. Price despite the stats played a pretty good game.

For the season now Price has completed 66.5% of his passes for 1,990 yards(8.4 YPA) with 23 touchdown passes to now eight interceptions. The school record for touchdown passes is 28 so Price has four games to pass for six touchdowns which he has shown he is capable of. This was also Price's first career fourth quarter comeback. He has played great this year as a sophomore quarterback and next season will be asked to be the leader of the team.

- The defense kept the Huskies in the game. Trailing 10-0 the Wildcats had the ball and the Huskies defense forced a stop. With the game tied at 28 the Wildcats had the ball on the five yard line the Huskies defense held them to a field goal and after a Huskies interception the defense forced a three and out. Then on the next three possessions the defense created turnovers. Nick Holt has been taking heat all week and I think most of it has been fair. The defense played more agressive against the Wildcats and they allowed some big plays but they also recorded two sacks while forcing four turnovers. In the redzone the defense held the Wildcats to two short field goals which helped the Huskies earn the win much like the California game. The defense is still allowing too many points and yards but at least they showed a pulse this week. You can tell on the sidelines especially the seniors like Cort Dennison and Quinton Richardson(who is presenting Holt with the game ball there) really care for their coach.

- Chris Polk had one of the greatest individual games in Husky football history. Polk became the first Husky in history to rush for over 100 yards and receive 100 yards or as I like to call it a Marshall Faulk special. Polk also ran for four touchdowns while receiving another one. In the same game he passed up Kaufman for most 100 yard rushing games while also equaling Kaufman for three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons. This is why recruiting is so important as Polk was going to USC instead he is at Washington. Like Kaufman the Huskies have a tailback who everyone in the nation wanted. Polk has been more consistent this season as he has rushed for 100 yards or more in seven of the teams eight games. The one game he didn't rush for 100 yards he ran for 60 while having 85 yards receiving. He has scored a touchdown whether it be rushing or receiving in seven straight games(11 of last 12 too). Polk has had one of the most consistent seasons in Husky history.

For the season Polk now has rushed for 1,016 yards(5.6 YPC) with nine rushing touchdowns(tying his career high from last season). He also has 18 receptions for 249 yards(13.8 YPC) with three touchdowns. Polk this year has shown the ability to bust long runs or receptions(all three touchdowns on fade or seam passes), Polk still runs for power on short yardage situations, he has shown the ability to be a receiving threat and is a wonderful blocker. Polk will be a star in the NFL and this year has made life easy on Price as teams are preparing to stop Polk. Now that Price is lighting teams up they are force to prepare for Price which means Polk has been running crazy going for 287 yards rushing with six rushing touchdowns the last two weeks.

- Sarkisian in year three has his offense playing at a high level. The Huskies offense is averaging 35.6 points per game which is good for 25th in the nation. The offense is balanced as they are averaging 255.5 yards passing a game which is good for 37th in the nation while the rushing is averaging 174.1 which is good for 45th in the nation. The Huskies are now 6-2 which puts Sarkisian at 18-15 as Huskies coach who were 12-47 the previous five seasons prior to his arrival. This was a real gut check win as the Huskies overcame so much while Sarkisian never lost faith and his players didn't panic. Remember the goaline fiasco at Notre Dame two years ago? Well the offensive line is better now and Sarkisian doesn't get cute anymore as he just pounds Polk for the touchdown. Remember how the Huskies could never win close games ever? Well under Sarkisian they always win the close games. The culture at Washington is a winning attitude and now Sarkisian has one more mountain to climb. He will take on the Oregon Ducks this week hoping to end the Huskies seven game losing streak to the Ducks which is their longest in program history.

In conclusion, good teams find ways to win which is exactly what the Huskies did. There was several momentum swings that went against the Huskies whether it be self inflicted or officiating. There was no excuses made the Huskies just went about their business on the next play which earned them the win. Polk had a memorable game that Husky fans will talk about for years to come. The special teams which has been great all year played well once again giving the Huskies great field position and the defense made plays in the fourth quarter. This was a total team effort as the Huskies improve to 5-0 at home. This is the Huskies best season since 2001 where they went 8-4 that year. The Huskies will face two stiff tests the next two weeks which will tell you a lot about this team going forward not only for this year but for years to come. For now Husky fans enjoy this win and start clearing your schedule in late December as the Huskies once again are going bowling.

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