Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Washington
By Kevin Gemmell
Record: 7-5, 5-4 Pac-12
After blowing out of the gates -- winning five of their first six and six of their first eight, the surprisingly hot Huskies cooled down with a three-game losing streak against Oregon, USC and Oregon State. While their early victories were probably a little closer than they'd like, sophomore Keith Price quickly established himself as the brightest up-and-coming quarterback in the conference. In his first season as a starter, he tossed 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, threw for 2,625 yards and managed a very respectable completion rate of 67.4 percent. Junior running back Chris Polk provided the punch out of the backfield.
Washington looks to be on the verge of cracking into the upper echelon of the Pac-12. But to do that, it's going to have to learn to win sans Seattle. Washington went 6-1 in its hometown — with five of those victories at Husky Stadium and the Apple Cup win over Washington State coming at the Seahawks' CenturyLink Field — but just 1-4 away from home. To get to the next level, they are going to have to find ways to win games like Oregon State on the road -- even if there are injuries and adversity.
Offensive MVP: Running back Chris Polk went for more than 100 yards in nine of 12 games this season, netting 1,341 yards and 11 touchdowns. At 5-foot-11, 222 pounds, he's the perfect balance of speed and power and provided a brilliant safeguard for a new starting quarterback. He averaged 111.8 yards per game -- good for 16th nationally.
Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Cort Dennison had a terrific season, totaling 113 tackles. He had a monster game in Week 2 against Hawaii, coming up with 10 solo tackles -- and he also had an interception against Arizona. One of the most complete linebackers in the conference.
Turning point: Probably the Hawaii game -- which is when Price really arrived. He tossed four touchdowns -- including a touchdown drive following a 99-yard pick-six that cut Washington's lead to 21-14. He finished 18-of-25 for 315 yards.
Up next: Heisman finalist Robert Griffin III and Baylor in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Huskies have seen elite quarterbacks already this season -- Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Darron Thomas -- but probably no one nearly as explosive as Griffin. A victory would pass last season's win total.