Dec. 1, 2009
Sarkisian & Locker Monday Press Conference Video (paid subscription)
By Todd Dybas
What a difference a year makes.
After two ineffective games and a trip for shoulder surgery became Chris Polk's 2008 legacy, the redshirt freshman is now in the Huskies' record books.
Polk pounded his way to 130 rushing yards last Saturday against Washington State in the Huskies' 30-0 blanking of the Cougars in the Apple Cup. His rumbling against the Cougs pushed his season total to 1,019 rushing yards. That's a freshman record.
"It feels good," Polk said. "It's something you don't really imagine. It's something you do on NCAA and Madden, but the fact that I did it as a freshman, it really means something. "It makes it that much better it's against Wazzu in the Apple Cup, so it's a pretty good weekend."
Rushing totals can be a masked statistic. As adept as the back is, the offensive line can allow a lesser runner a higher total. In Polk's case, he has led with an oft-injured shoulder and bruised his way to the 1,000-plus yards. His ability to move through a hole than bash through a first tackle is responsible for his record-setting total.
"The one thing he has is toughness," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "Physical and mental toughness. The ability when things aren't always blocked great, he fights to get through it. He doesn't lose hope, and when he gets back in the huddle he keeps battling and that's showed up.
"He hasn't had a bunch of runs this year where it's big gaping holes that he's run for yards. He's earned his yards."
It was Polk's fourth consecutive game with more than 100 yards rushing and fifth this season. He's the 11th husky to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. It's the 14th time a Washington back has rushed for more than 1,000 yards (Greg Lewis did it twice, Napoleon Kaufman three times).
The four consecutive games of 100-plus yards rushing ties him for the third-most consecutive 100-yards games in Washington history. Lewis went over the mark 10 consecutive times spanning the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Corey Dillon did it seven consecutive times in 1996. Rashaan Shehee had four in a row in 1997.
Polk left the previous freshman record-holder, Jake Locker, who ran for 986 yards in 2007, impressed.
"It's unbelievable," Locker said. "There have been a lot of good backs here. For him to be able to have that honor is a testament to how good a player he is."
Coming into the Apple Cup, Polk's pursuit of the 1,000-yard mark was a topic among his teammates. Following the game, many said they knew Polk was close. Polk said the linemen talked all week of him breaking the total against Washington State. Even Sarkisian was aware.
Washington thought it could run against a sagging Cougars defense. It was right. After testing the edges, the Huskies decided to take on the A to B running style. It was straight ahead for Polk and Co. The Huskies eventually gobbled up 265 yards on the ground Saturday.
"All year, we have talked of being a physical football team," Sarkisian said. "To be a physical football team, you have to run the ball."
It's been a dramatic shift for Polk who was heralded as a recruit but had lacked the chance to show it on the field last season. Sarkisian thinks this redshirt freshman season is only the beginning.
"He's a guy that's still learning," Sarkisian said. "I think the next step for him is his ability to play at the second level at the open field once he clears the line of scrimmage and have some creativity there in his running style which I think will only help him."