BY Steve Rudman & Art Thiel 08:50PM 10/01/2011

Huskies Wake Up In Second Half, Whip Utah 31-14

After a sluggish first half, quarterback Keith Price and running back Chris Polk led Washington to a decisive Pac-12 victory over Utah in Salt Lake City.

Chris Polk had his 15th game of 100 or more rushing yards in Washington's 31-14 win over Utah Salturday in Salt Lake City. /Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest file

STEVE: Not sure yet what  Steve Sarkisian said at halftime Saturday in Salt Lake City, when the Huskies led 10-7, but easily could have trailed 21-7. Had to be the equivalent of a “Win One For The Gipper” speech, because the Huskies dominated the second half behind Keith Price and Chris Polk, winning 31-14. Huskies are now 4-1 (2-0 in conference), only two wins shy of bowl eligibility with seven games remaining.

ART: One of the great halves in recent Huskies history, and it was on the road, at altitude, against a team that had won 23 in a row at home, and against a fan base utterly jacked to have their first home game as a Pac-12 member. Fergawdsakes, the defense was even respectable.

STEVE: The Huskies created five turnovers, two in the red zone in the first half, that kept Utah off the board. I can’t recall  seeing a guy have such a Jekyll/Hyde first half as Desmond Trufant. He gives up a big play that would have gone for a TD if the Utah receiver hadn’t stepped out of bounds. He runs into a punt returner, drawing a 15-yard penalty. To atone, he strips a receiver and recovers a fumble at the UW 5-yard line. That was typical of Washington’s defensive effort.

ART: The biggest feat was holding the Utes to 17 net yards rushing, none in the second half, after averaging 171 yards a game coming into Saturday. I realize a lot of those yards were semi-bogus, coming against Montana State and BYU, But for a lot of the game, it looked as if Utah reached a league too far.

STEVE: That’s the fewest rushing yards the Huskies have allowed to any team since 2007, when they gave up a eight to Syracuse in the season opener and 25 to Arizona later in the year.

ART: It helped that Washington knocked out Utah’s starting QB, Jordan Wynn, with a separated shoulder in the first half.  But that was indicative of a bigger success — they won the battle along both lines.

STEVE: Especially in the second half. Polk had about 150 of his 189 rushing yards in the second half, and Price threw all three of his touchdown passes, giving him a whopping 17 for the season.

ART: Sarkisian said afterward,  ”In this atmosphere and environment, I couldn’t be more impressed.  It might be our best win in our time here . . . At halftime, we’d been in some tight games, and you could feel the tension (in those games). This time, there was a sense of confidence that we’d get it right in the second half. Keith was a little jittery in the first half.  We hadn’t seen that from him. But he calmed down, and I knew we’d be fine.” Week after week, Price just keeps adding stars to his report card.

STEVE: Price is averaging 3.4 touchdown passes per game. The single-season UW record is 2.77 by Brock Huard in 1997. Price also moved up to a tie for seventh all time (with Jake Locker) in single-season TD passes with 17. The worrisome thing here is not that Price was  a little jittery in the first half, but that both of his knees are hurting.

ART: He also turned an ankle in the first half. By the time he threw his final TD pass to Devin Aguilar in the fourth quarter, his limp reminded me of most horses I bet on at Emerald Downs. But he said after the game that he’d be fine. So far, he hasn’t lied about it. If ever there was a player in need of Saturday’s bye, it is Price. The kid needs to lay on a couch for two weeks.

STEVE: I agree. This week, Sportspress Northwest ran a story with a poll comparing him to other UW quarterbacks through the first four games of a season. Most voters — 80 percent — said they would start Price over Jake Locker, if Locker miraculously returned to the UW. Having watched dozens of UW quarterbacks over the years — and recognizing that Price has only six games under his belt (five this year), what’s your assessment of him?

ART: The biggest question around an inexperienced quarterback is decision-making, and he’s answered it splendidly. Price knows his playbook, his teammates and himself. Sarkisian always praises Price’s ability to extend plays, meaning his escapes from trouble that avoid sacks and still moves the ball. He’s gifted, smart and has the huddle’s respect. Where he fits in UW history awaits time, but right now he’s the most effective QB since Marques Tuiasosopo (pardon us, Jake).

STEVE: Let’s talk a little about Polk. He became the third UW back to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards (joining Napoleon Kaufman and Joe Steele). He also had his 15th career 100-yard rushing game (only Kaufman with 17 has more). Polk almost went pro last year and certainly will next spring. How do you assess his chances in the NFL?

ART: Definitely pro material, maybe middle-round. He has burst, higher-gear speed, toughness and balance. Plus a wonderful stiff-arm. Late in the game he absolutely stoned a Utah defensive back with a Corey Dillon-esque straight-arm.

STEVE: After beating Utah, the Huskies are 4-1 and have won eight of their past nine, including the Holiday Bowl. Looks like the stink of 0-12 (2008) has been fumigated, and that Sarkisian has turned around the program — although the defense is still scary.

ART: Here’s the two biggest developments from Saturday: They won going away on the road against a respectable conference opponent (without any “God’s play” last-moment dramatics)  and didn’t need a mammoth game from Price (226 yards passing). In fact, they won with him, not because of him. They won one for the Gimper.


YourThoughts

  • http://twitter.com/troysowden Troy Sowden

    Good article. Although Price had 226 yards passing, not 145, Art.

  • http://twitter.com/troysowden Troy Sowden

    Good article. Although Price had 226 yards passing, not 145, Art.

  • crumudgeon

    I might be wrong, but on TV, the Utah players looked smaller than the Huskies.  They also looked slower — in the second half, that is.  In the first half Price was constantly being harassed, but Utah kind of looked gassed by the end of the third quarter.  This all leads me to think that Utah was overrated.  Sure they lost their starting quarterback, but they just didn’t look like a 10 point favorite.  They were at home, it was homecoming and this game had been hyped to death by the media — all that was missing was a team superior to the one who played the Huskies.  But it was a great win for the Dawgs nonetheless.

    • Pixel13

      Wasn’t so much the Utes overrated as the dawgs being under-rated.  Won’t happen much more–everybody’s beginning to catch on to just what this team has.

      Has any UW team ever had the overall collection of offensive weapons this one has?  Polk, with able backup from Callier and Sankey, excellent blocking (and some receiving) from Amosa, TEs who range from good to excellent, and that corps of WRs, including a star in the making in Kasen Williams.   Note his block of 2 guys on CP’s 49-yard run.  Price just keeps impressing me with his poise, vision, decisions, and throws.  It’s early days, but if he keeps up his pace of improving and making plays he’ll be the best Udub QB ever. 

  • crumudgeon

    I might be wrong, but on TV, the Utah players looked smaller than the Huskies.  They also looked slower — in the second half, that is.  In the first half Price was constantly being harassed, but Utah kind of looked gassed by the end of the third quarter.  This all leads me to think that Utah was overrated.  Sure they lost their starting quarterback, but they just didn’t look like a 10 point favorite.  They were at home, it was homecoming and this game had been hyped to death by the media — all that was missing was a team superior to the one who played the Huskies.  But it was a great win for the Dawgs nonetheless.

    • Pixel13

      Wasn’t so much the Utes overrated as the dawgs being under-rated.  Won’t happen much more–everybody’s beginning to catch on to just what this team has.

      Has any UW team ever had the overall collection of offensive weapons this one has?  Polk, with able backup from Callier and Sankey, excellent blocking (and some receiving) from Amosa, TEs who range from good to excellent, and that corps of WRs, including a star in the making in Kasen Williams.   Note his block of 2 guys on CP’s 49-yard run.  Price just keeps impressing me with his poise, vision, decisions, and throws.  It’s early days, but if he keeps up his pace of improving and making plays he’ll be the best Udub QB ever. 

  • grover

    The M’s pitching since the All-Star break has been unbelievable.  Does anyone believe this is a reflection of the actual talent on the M’s pitching staff, or just some inexplicable run of an entire team pitching well over its head?  Even Felix, at 1.53 ERA over his last 12 starts can’t do that over an entire season (his season ERA is about 2.50, which is great, but not close to 1.53).

    Strange things happen in baseball, and the M’s winning percentage since the All-Star break is one of those strange things.  The M’s pitching staff, outside of Felix, is really very ordinary, at best.  But, they continue to pitch like they are the best staff in the AL.  Just sort of bizarre, especially if it continues much longer.

    • Artthiel

       Felix and Vargas are legit as two of the top 10 in the AL, and the others are pitching above expectations. That is often enough to make a team post-season competitive, but the margin is so thin because of the previously poor offense.. Beavan has a future in the rotation, but Iwakuma and Millwood are placeholders for two minor league guns. Hard to believe, but the Pineda deal has had a substantive first-year payoff.

  • Michael Kaiser

    I do not know what I would do if the Mariners actually put something together for a season or two.  It would be like the the five years or so starting in the mid-90′s.  I would have to find something else to kick.  The Mariners almost always have been my default.  

  • Artthiel

    Remember that the Mariners picked the site in 1996, and the port objected then, as they did to the Kingdome in 1972. Both times they were correct in that each project added congestion because city business and port traffic have grown every year. We keep asking more and more of the same square mile of ground.

    They call this area a transportation hub. Well, next time you get a chance, take a look at a wheel. The hub moves more slowly than than the tire.