Sept. 14, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Erik Folk could have been a Cornhusker.
Instead, he's a Husky getting set to kick for the third time in 12 months against Nebraska.
Folk was a sought-after kicker in 2006 out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., about 10 minutes down the 101 freeway from his hometown of Woodland Hills west of Los Angeles. He was recruited by Arizona, where his brother Nick - who just won the New York Jets' NFL opener against Dallas on national television - kicked. But Erik wanted to strike out on his own, to break from his big brother's shadow, the one that had led him to football and away from soccer as a kid.
He could have by going to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers offered him a scholarship, too. But the Huskies were there first, extending an offer in October of his senior year.
The early Dawgs got their leg - a proven, clutch one.
Folk has made 35 of 45 career field goals and is 4 for 4 this season for Washington (2-0) heading into Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game at 11th-ranked Nebraska (2-0) on ABC television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here at GoHuskies.com with the live game chat and streaming audio.
"When they offered me, I had pretty much made up my mind already," Folk said of the `Huskers.
The Huskies are glad he'll be wearing white instead of red on Saturday.
Beyond the 78-percent field-goal success rate for his career, the NFL hopeful, senior marketing major and academic All-Pac-10 honorable mention last year has improved his kickoffs this season. He has two touchbacks on 14 kickoffs through two games, as many as he had on 57 kickoffs in 13 games last year. On average, his kickoffs are traveling to the opponent's 6-yard line, more than a yard farther than he booted them last season. That is giving the Huskies' improving kick-coverage units better chances to pin offenses deep in their own end.
Folk continuing that trend will be especially important Saturday.
Nebraska is No. 1 in the nation so far this young season in kickoff return average, at 42.2 yards per return on five run backs. Cornhuskers freshman Ameer Abdullah returned a kickoff 100 yards to send NU to victory last week, after Fresno State had pulled to within two points in the fourth quarter.
A day after strong safety Sean Parker described the challenge of properly reading keys and staying on responsibilities against Nebraska's zone-read option plays with speedy quarterback Taylor Martinez, fellow safety Taz Stevenson hurt his knee.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said the injury appeared to be "a tweak" from a teammate rolling on it during the two-plus hour workout. The coach also said Nate Fellner is doubtful to play Saturday because of a hamstring injury he sustained in last week's win over Hawaii.
Justin Glenn, a starter in 2009 until he broke his leg, is in line to start at free safety next to Parker.
Sarkisian is confident the defense has enough depth at safety to withstand the injuries.
"It's probably one of our deepest positions on the team, so I think we're OK," he said.
QUICK HITS: There will be at least some purple amid the sea of red in 84,000-seat Memorial Stadium. More than 3,600 tickets have been distributed to Huskies supporters for Saturday's game. The road game with the next-highest sales is currently Oct. 1 at Utah, with about 1,400 paid seats out of the Husky ticket office so far. ... The weather forecast for Saturday in Lincoln: A 40-percent chance of thunderstorms with 14 mile-per-hour winds and a high of 69 degrees.