Washington Huskies Football: What We Learned in Week 8
Running back Chris Polk could not be stopped Saturday night.
The junior out of Redlands, Calif. ran all over the Arizona Wildcats (2-6, 1-5) as he helped the Washington Huskies (6-2, 4-1) come out on top 42-31 in what was a chaotic game from start to finish.
Polk finished the night with five total touchdowns, four that came via the run and one through the air.
The Dawgs came in to the game a little staggered and it seemed like last week's blowout to Stanford was still lingering in the players' eyes.
Arizona got out to a quick 10-0 lead over the Huskies as quarterback Nick Foles simply had his way with the Huskies secondary. Foles ended the game 32-of-50 for 388 yards and two touchdown passes and three interceptions.
The Huskies were on the bad side of several calls during the game, including a bogus call against tight end Michael Hartvigson. However, the Huskies bounced back and reached the end zone on a six-yard "run" by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. The play looked like a routine screen pass, but since it was thrown behind the line of scrimmage, it was considered a rushing touchdown.
Keith Price struggled most of the game but made the throws when he needed to as he finished the night 16-of-30 for 277 yards with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. One interception didn't look like an interception at all. Wide receiver James Johnson looked like he caught a pass and simply bobbled it as he ran and lost control of it and it got into the hands of Arizona's defensive back Robert Golden and he took it back 91 yards to the end zone. That minimized the Huskies' lead to two points and the Wildcats converted the two-point conversion and tied the game at 21 early in the third quarter.
The Huskies defense was picked apart by Foles most of the game as he made routine throws time and time again. However, the defense made the plays when it needed to. The biggest play came in the third quarter when safety Will Shamburger forced a fumble on wide receiver Juron Criner and linebacker Princeton Fuimaono jumped on it and gave the Huskies great field position as well as momentum.
The drive ended with yet another run by Polk and the Huskies were up on the Wildcats 42-31 late in the fourth quarter.
The ensuing drive went the right way for the Dawgs as safety Sean Parker picked off Foles and dampened the Wildcats' chance at a comeback.
However, after a quick three-and-out that was forced by the Wildcats, they had the ball with 54 seconds left in regulation.
Huskies senior linebacker Cort Dennison had other plans on his mind as he picked off Foles on the first play and put the final nail in the coffin.
Now, what have we learned after this victory?
The Huskies run defense was back to its old self as it only allowed 36 yards on the ground after being ran out of the stadium last week in Palo Alto.
The pass defense is still struggling and it seems like any offense can throw on it. And they should be able to when the Huskies defensive backs give 10 yards of cushion to other team's receivers. That needs to be fixed and quick.
Polk was obviously the catalyst to this victory, as he ended the game with 144 yards rushing on 34 attempts and earned 100 yards receiving on four receptions.
There were some struggles in the receiving corps, most notably being Kearse and James Johnson both having subpar games. However, freshman Kasen Williams wowed the crowd Saturday night as he hauled in a 20-yard dart by Price and bowled over two Arizona corners to pick up 28 yards after contact. He ended the game with two receptions for 60 yards.
Stats worth mentioning:
Chris Polk became the first Husky ever to run for 100 yards and have 100 yards receiving in the same game.
Polk also now holds the school record for most career 100-yard rushing games with 18 thus far in his career, surpassing Napoleon Kaufman's record of 17.
This game gave the Huskies six wins on the year, which makes them bowl eligible for the second consecutive year with five games left to play.
Next week's game at home against Oregon is going to be extremely difficult to come out with a win.
Do the Huskies beat Oregon?
After watching Stanford's running backs run for nearly 450 yards on the Huskies, names like LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner look that much scarier. Oregon is coming off a victory at home against Washington State as it beat the Cougars 43-28 at home. What stood out was that the Cougars hung with the Ducks up through the half as they only trailed 15-10 heading into halftime.
It will be up to the Huskies defensive line and linebackers to keep Oregon's run game in check or this game could get ugly real quick. Last year's game in Eugene was yet another blowout by the Ducks, but the Huskies hung around the half as they trailed 18-6.
This game marks the final game in Husky Stadium before the renovation starts, so the atmosphere will be rocking in Montlake. The Huskies will also be honoring the 1991 National Championship team at halftime, making the experience that much better.
Offensive X-Factor: quarterback Keith Price. Price cannot continue to struggle if the Huskies want a chance to keep things close or beat the Ducks. The offensive line also needs to give Price time to read the defense and find the open man to keep the chains moving. Time of possession will be crucial for the Huskies as Oregon can score fast and in bunches, so if its offense is not on the field, that bodes well for the Huskies.
Defensive X-Factor: every linebacker. No one has been able to stop Oregon's rushing attack except for LSU in Week 1 and the Huskies do not come close to LSU's defense. If the Huskies can get momentum early and often with three-and-outs and turnovers, they might be able to come out with a victory.
Oregon has won the last seven meeting between the two teams, and the closest game was 34-14 in 2006. This is the most intense rivalry in the Pac-12 and rivalry games never disappoint.
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