Oh, how fast optimism dissipates, how quickly hope sinks after a bad defeat – and the Washington Huskies' 34-14 stinker at Stanford was, plain and simple, a rude reality check.
Blame can be painted in every corner:
• Like quarterback Jake Locker, who wasn't nearly as efficient as he was in the first game. The early interception was his fault – he threw into double coverage. The second one was a miscue off a broken play, and debatable.
• Or how about the special-team corps, in general. Inexplicably, Erik Folk booted the kickoff in the opposite direction to start the game, and the Huskies paid on Chris Owusu's 91-return for a touchdown. Or bad decisions by Johri Fogerson or Jordan Polk on the UW's returns on kickoffs.
• And there's the issue of 321 Stanford rushing yards. UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt indicated that his defensive tackles need to get tougher on the interior. Shoddy tackling seemed to be a defense-wide plague. And again, linebacker E.J. Savannah was on the sideline, this time with a foot injury.
All of these are genuine concerns as a 2-2 UW squad heads to Notre Dame this weekend.
Today, I want to address offensive personnel. Today, I ask as the Huskies prepare for another road trip, what exactly is receiver Jordan Polk giving this offense?
Polk, the 5-foot-8, 162-pound sophomore from Portland, had a super preseason camp – enough that the UW staff awarded him a starting position opposite James Johnson (and the duo is often paired up together in coach Steve Sarkisian's personnel groupings).
Polk is a tough, shifty runner in open space, with the ability to break off a long-gainer at any time. It's for that reason he is also a kick returner.
And, Polk can be utilized at any time on end-arounds, or "fly" sweeps, just to give a defense that element to think about during a game.
Thing is, for all that he can do – for all that he's a threat to prepare for, which I understand is a big plus in football – is he truly a weapon or an overskilled decoy?
I broke down all the receiving snaps through four games. Here is how that shakes out (of course, unofficially):
Wide Receiver Plays from ScrimmageJames Johnson, 185.Jermaine Kearse, 116.Devin Aguilar, 115.Jordan Polk, 111.D'Andre Goodwin, 104.
Wide Receiver Average Plays Per GameJJ, 46.3 per game.Aguilar, 38.3 per game.Kearse, 29.0 per game.Polk, 27.7 per game.Goodwin, 26.0 per game.
Wide Receiver ProductionJJ – 19 receptions, 220 yards, two TDs.Kearse – 11 receptions, 128 yards, TD.Goodwin – eight receptions, 155 yards.Aguilar – seven receptions, 107 yards.Polk – two receptions, 20 yards.
Polk has touched the ball three times – twice on catches, and one on a reverse against Louisiana State. He's been targeted, by my count, eight other times on pass plays by Locker.
In the past two games against USC and Stanford, Polk hasn't caught a pass.
Question is, if you were a defensive coordinator, would Polk – who occupies a great deal of snaps in the receiver rotation – be somebody you would seriously game-plan for?
One of the emerging entities in Sarkisian's two-running back sets is Chris Polk's pass-catching on the edge. In essence, this tailback-Polk can do what that receiver-Polk can in open space, only with more power behind it.
This isn't a rage against Jordan Polk, rather it's reason to question how often, or in what manner the coaching staff is utilizing him, especially when it might be taking away playing time from more productive players in the passing game.