Monday, October 31, 2011
Polk sets records as Huskies become bowl eligible with 42-31 win over Wildcats!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.