Pressed to find a single, solitary word to describe the University of Washington football team and their monumental upset over conference rival USC, one would have to give considerable thought to “gutsy.”
Gutsy (adj., slang): marked by courage, daring, or determination in the face of difficulties or danger; brave; spirited; bold.
Gutsy, as in quarterback Jake Locker’s 21-35, 237-yard passing performance, capped off by a legendary fourth quarter march down the field to set up a game-winning field goal. Locker, a junior and arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, rushed four yards for Washington’s only touchdown in the game, late in the first quarter.
Gutsy, as in tailback Chris Polk and his ability to drag, two, three, four, five, even six Trojan defenders on his back as he fought for all 71 of his rushing yards on 25 hard-nosed carries. The redshirt freshman, a highly-regarded recruit who spurned USC and their crop of backs to be a featured player on Washington’s roster, also hauled in three of Locker’s passes for 22 receiving yards.
Gutsy, as in sophomore wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. The Lakes High School (Lakewood, Wash.) product totaled 70 yards on three receptions, none bigger than his final two catches which came on consecutive third downs on Washington’s final drive. Though he essentially occupies the No. 5 wideout role on the roster, Kearse performed like a starter when called upon late in Saturday’s contest.
Gutsy, in the form of senior linebacker Donald Butler, winner of the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week award after recording 12 tackles and creating two turnovers. A three-year starter, Butler forced a fumble and hauled in an interception of an Aaron Corp pass during a pivotal third quarter.
And perhaps redefining gutsy was Eric Folk. Prior to Saturday, the sophomore placekicker was perhaps best known as the younger brother of Dallas Cowboys kicker Nick Folk. By Sunday, however, the entire nation was introduced to Eric.
Folk, a native of Woodlawn Hills, Calif., notched 10 of Washington’s 16 points, including a 28-yard boot, a 46-yard moonshot, and most notably the winning field goal with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. A 22-yard attempt under the most intense circumstances, Folk nailed the kick with plenty of room to spare, sending Husky Stadium into an unbridled frenzy in the final moments of the ballgame.
For 60 minutes on Saturday afternoon, a number of heroic individual performances led the Huskies to a monumental victory over a superbly-talented opponent in USC.
As a school, the University of Washington regained a great deal of relevance that had gone missing for most of the past decade.
As a program, the two-time national champion Husky football team earned respect in the form of the No. 24 spot in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, as well as an improbable 1-0 start to Pac-10 conference play.
A huge leap forward for a gutsy ballclub that played spirited football less than ten months removed from an 0-12 2008 season. The next step for the Dawgs? Prominence.