Sunday, October 2, 2011
Price and Polk lead the Huskies resurgence
By Ted Miller
SALT LAKE CITY -- They are roommates and best buddies and backfield mates and perhaps they are the pair who will lead Washington football back into the national rankings.
Keith Price is the unflappable, easy-going quarterback who's thrown 17 touchdowns passes. Chris Polk is the brash, physical running back who now ranks second behind Napoleon Kaufman on the school's career rushing list.
Together -- P&P Football Factory? Pass & Pound? Reign and Thunder? -- they provided the second-half offensive spark that dispatched Utah 31-14 with 21 unanswered points.
Said Price, "When he's struggling, I open him up. When I'm struggling, he'll open me up."
Said Polk, "It's a dual threat. The better I do, the easier it is for him to pass. And the better he does, the easier it is for me to run."
Hmm. It's possible this pair shares thoughts.
Keith Price (left) and Chris Polk were the catalyst for Washington's offense as the Huskies dominated the second half over Utah.
But things weren't so jaunty in the first half. The Huskies led 10-7, but almost entirely due to Utah mistakes. The Utes outgained the Huskies 166 yards to 112 at the break. Price seemed out of sorts, perhaps for the first time this season. Coach Steve Sarkisian thought perhaps the recent attention connected to leading the nation in touchdown passes -- who me? -- might have caused him to press.
"Everybody is writing about him now, how good he is," Sarkisian said. "Maybe he tried to play to the hype."
So Sarkisian challenged Price in a manner that's probably not what one would imagine a typical football coach would do. He facetiously transformed into a first-grade teacher and made Price stand in front of the class.
Explained Sarkisian, "I made him stand up in front of the team and I said, 'Hey, can we go back to playing Keith Price football now? Is that OK?' And he said, 'Sure coach, we can do that.' And the team went nuts in the locker room."
Price threw three second-half touchdown passes -- eight, 23 and 17 yards.
But, really, it was Polk in the third quarter, when he piled up 105 of his 189 yards rushing, that transformed the game. The 222-pounder started to run through Utes tackles and rarely went down on first contact. It appeared the typically stout Utah defense wore down.
"He's a load, man," Sarkisian said. "He's a tough and physical guy. And he's the type of guy, when he starts running, when he starts making those runs, it almost feels like he runs better as the game goes on."
Utah rushed for just 17 yards. It was outgained 198 yards to 28 in the decisive third quarter.
Of course, there are two sides to every game. While Washington sees a dominant second half, the Utes see an uncharacteristically sloppy performance that doomed them.
"Turning the ball over five times against anyone can't work, especially against a quality opponent," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
Utah had two interceptions and three fumbles, while the Huskies had one Price first-half interception. The first fumble came on the opening kickoff and was returned for a touchdown. One fumble and one interception, both in the first half, happened inside the Huskies 10-yard line. The Utes entered the game with just three turnovers in their first three games.
But sloppiness or even the loss wasn't the chief post-game concern for the Utes. It was quarterback Jordan Wynn's left shoulder, which he hurt late in the first half. That's not the right, throwing shoulder Wynn had surgically repaired this offseason, but it was enough of an issue for him to give way to backup Jon Hays.
"I'm not sure of an exact diagnosis yet, but we'll know more tomorrow and a lot more Monday," Whittingham said.
The Utes, who were playing their first Pac-12 home game, have a critical matchup with new South Division rival Arizona State in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday. It will be tough to win that game without Wynn.
The Huskies, meanwhile, get a bye. That will come in handy with a number of banged up players, including Price, who added a sprained ankle to his two sprained knees.
Perhaps Price and Polk -- the Prolka! -- can think of a nickname for their dynamic duet while they are chilling on the sofa during their bye week.
Or maybe not. Said Price, "He says we're the one-two punch but I don't play into all that stuff."