Polk saves the day in crazy game
Chris Polk is a remedy for high blood pressure. When he's on your team, you can feel cool, calm — and cocky.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Just call him The Stabilizer.
Chris Polk is a remedy for high blood pressure. When he's on your team, you can feel cool, calm — and cocky. There's seemingly no obstacle he can't run past or through. Keep the game close enough for the running back to be a factor, and Polk can carry an entire team with the same rugged confidence that he carries the football.
In the penultimate game at Husky Stadium (as we know it), the wildest show of Washington's 2011 season broke out. From inexplicably horrible officiating to unbelievable momentum swings to amazing individual efforts, this one had it all. But most importantly, it featured Polk, who played the finest all-around game of his stellar Washington career Saturday night.
Without him, the Huskies (6-2) wouldn't have claimed a 42-31 comeback victory over Arizona to become bowl-eligible for a second straight year. Polk scored five of Washington's six touchdowns, and he's believed to be the first player in school history to amass 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game.
Polk rushed for 144 yards on 34 carries and ran for four touchdowns. As a receiver, he caught four passes for 100 yards and snagged a 17-yard touchdown pass from Keith Price early in the third quarter on a splendid play call by Steve Sarkisian.
Off the field, Polk is brash and likely to say anything. He's a headline waiting to happen, and the coaches must fear the bulletin-board potential of his sound bites. But put him in shoulder pads, and he's the most dependable player on the field.
This game brushed up against a disastrous outcome. If the Huskies had lost to Arizona (2-6), a team that recently fired coach Mike Stoops, it could've caused a hopes-dimming tailspin. Coming off a 65-21 beating at Stanford, the Huskies needed to get right. It was a most difficult healing process Saturday. In the end, though, Polk was too good, and he inspired his team to create three game-clinching turnovers in the fourth quarter.
It took only 8 ½ minutes for the tension to build. Arizona took a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter, lashing the Huskies' soft defense with its quick-hitting passing game. The deficit felt larger because the Huskies' normally efficient offense couldn't find its rhythm early. After the Huskies ran three plays and punted on consecutive drives to start the game, light boos seeped out of the crowd of 59,825.
But after their first defensive stop of the game, the Huskies responded on offense as Polk gained 33 rushing yards in an 80-play drive. Receiver Jermaine Kearse's 6-yard touchdown run trimmed the deficit to 10-7.
Polk would score the Huskies' last five touchdowns.
His 1-yard plunge in the second quarter gave Washington a 14-13 edge, its first lead of the game. His 17-yard TD catch made it 21-13.
Leading 21-13 and again approaching the end zone, the Huskies had an opportunity to add another touchdown in the third quarter, but that's when the craziest play of a crazy night commenced. Price scrambled and threw an accurate pass to James Johnson, but the receiver bobbled the ball. Arizona strong safety Robert Golden grabbed it out of the air and ran about 353 yards — weaving in and out, running from one side of the field to the other, racing past flailing UW players — to score on a 91-yard interception return. After a two-point conversion, the score was tied at 21. It was a deflating 15-point swing — until Polk went back to work.
He scored from 1 yard out with 5:34 left in the third to give the Huskies a 28-21 lead. Then, after Arizona scored the game's next 10 points, Polk's 5-yard touchdown run capped an 81-yard drive and helped the Huskies take a 35-31 lead with 8:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
About 4 ½ minutes later, he scored again to put the game away. Before his final touchdown, the Washington defense had responded with its biggest play of the night — safety Will Shamburger forced a fumble from Arizona star receiver Juron Criner, and linebacker Princeton Fuimaono recovered it.
Polk now has 18 career 100-yard rushing performances, which is the most in school history. He has 1,016 rushing yards for the season, his third straight year of more than 1,000 yards. Only one team, California, has held him under 100 rushing yards this season.
He is truly The Stabilizer. The passing game was a little off. The defense needed to get more rest. The offense needed him to deliver, and he did.
Then again, it's hard to expect anything less from the most complete running back in college football.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org,Twitter:
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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