Washington star running back Chris Polk gets stronger as the game goes on
Washington's Chris Polk rushes for 145 yards in the second half.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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SALT LAKE CITY — The late-afternoon sun and the altitude, Washington running back Chris Polk said, left him with a dry mouth for a while in the first half of Saturday's game against Utah.
By the end, though, it was the Utah defenders he had gasping for air as he ran over, past and through the Utes for 189 yards on 29 carries. He had 145 in the second half as the Huskies blew past Utah en route to a 31-14 win.
"He's the kind of guy when he starts running and making those runs, it almost feels that he runs even better as the game goes on because he's in such (good) physical condition and feels so good about himself and what he is doing," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. "As the defense fatigues, he almost looks stronger in a sense and I thought we saw that tonight."
The performance gave Polk 3,172 yards for his career and moved him past Joe Steele (3,168) into second place on the all-time UW rushing list, behind only Napoleon Kaufman with 4,106 yards.
Polk had just 44 yards on 14 carries in the first half as the Utah defense often got the better of the Huskies offense. UW made its first change of the year on the offensive line late in the quarter, inserting Micah Hatchie at right tackle for a series for Erik Kohler in an effort to jump-start the running game.
Polk said he "had a little talk" with the linemen at halftime.
"I had to tell them just to finish up and give me one more second and I am going to break one for you," he said. "And they picked me up and told me to be patient, because I was really trying to hit stuff real fast without letting it develop. It was really more on me than the offensive line."
Polk had 101 yards in the third quarter alone as he rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth time this year and the 15th in his career, second in UW history behind Kaufman (17).
Polk, though, said, "I didn't feel like I had my best game. I left a lot of yards out there. If I would break just one more tackle, there is a lot of yards to go."
Sweet homecoming for Dennison
Huskies middle linebacker Cort Dennison had a team-high 10 tackles in a game played about a block-and-a-half from where he went to high school at Judge Memorial.
It was the first time he had played at Rice-Eccles Stadium, saying he had this game circled on his calendar since the day the schedules came out.
"It's awesome for me, because I was able to do it in front of all the family and friends," he said.
Dennison had downplayed the game's importance earlier in the week, but admitted afterward it meant a little more.
"I just didn't want to get my emotions over-hyped," he said. "But this is something I will remember for the rest of my life."
Kearse brothers shine
It was a big day for the Kearse family as brothers Jamaal and Jermaine each scored touchdowns for the Huskies.
That's nothing new for Jermaine, who has a team-high five for the season.
Jamaal, however, wasn't expecting to score as he ran down to cover the opening kickoff.
But when Garret Gilliland tackled Ryan Lacy, the ball popped out and almost straight into the arms of Jamaal Kearse, who returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.
"It's an awesome feeling," he said. "I saw the ball come out and I kind of had a perfect bounce right in to me, and I picked it up and scored. Scoop and score."
He also got his first start at linebacker in place of the injured John Timu and had four tackles.
• Sarkisian said he didn't regret going for it on fourth-and-one in the first quarter at the Utah 32.
"No," he said of a play in which Polk was stopped for no gain. "Maybe the type of call. You always do. I had two types of calls in front of me, one was a run and one was a pass. ... But I don't ever worry about the what-ifs and the consequences of it."
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