Huskies Insider Blog

Day after: 'Ground Sark' at $100 per pound

Tailback Chris Polk is short on answers, but longingly tries to find the proper time - an crease, if you will - to relay a timely wisecrack.

After Polk, the UW sophomore, racked up a career-high 138 rushing yards Thursday night in the Huskies' 24-7 pounding of toothless UCLA, he was asked afterward if his coach and pass-attacking offensive playcaller - Steve Sarkisian - was growing weary of calling so many run plays.

The Huskies had 41 rushing attempts, most of them on designed runs for Polk and backfield mate Jesse Callier, who also posted a high-mark 107 yards on the grounds.

Of the UW's 29 second-half plays, 25 of them were runs.

Polk flashed a lazy-eyed glimmer, slightly raised his head back and had a quick response:

"I think so," Polk said. "But it's not broke, don't fix it."

A few components factored into the Huskies' run-first commitment Thursday:

* They had UCLA well-scouted: A defense's No. 1 priority coming into face the UW is to take away Jake Locker's read-option runs to the perimeter.

UCLA has blazing fast defensive ends in Owa Odighizuwa and Damien Holmes. Defensive tackle Cassus Marsh isn't too shabby, either. So, the Bruins lined them up in widened gaps to try and control the fringe - much like what a 3-4 defensive alignment would do.

"Go smashmouth, run straight," Polk said. "We had no reason but to fall forward."

The Huskies knew UCLA would try and take away the backside, so Sarkisian countered with a lot of "inside tracks and little outsize zone (runs)," Polk said, to find open spaces.

Sarkisian also noted a few new blocking techniques for the receivers were installed into the game plan this week for the Bruins.

Yet, it wasn't until the Huskies replaced senior Gregory Christine with true freshman Colin Porter at right guard sometime in the first half that sparked a lot of the big-gaining inside runs.

* Because of Jake Locker's layoff and impending rust, the UW offense was choppy early on: Sarkisian tried mixing in the pass with the run in the first half, but little came of it. Many of Locker's misses were high of the mark.

The UW went three-and-out on its first drive, and Locker threw a bad interception on the next series on a scramble, trying to get a pass along the right sideline to Devin Aguilar.

So, at halftime, the second-year UW coach said he recalled a piece of advice his former boss at Southern California - Pete Carroll - always recited when the Trojans' offense was a tad off.

"When we’d have first halves like that, it felt like (Carroll) was in the back of my head saying, ‘Just get back to running the football, let the game start happening again and then you can do what you want to do,’" Sarkisian said. "I went back to the second half with that mentality."

A few seconds after admitting that at the post-game podium, Sarkisian stared off into the back of the room.

"Thanks Pete, appreciate it," he said.

* UCLA was a wounded animal: As much as Locker and company was misfiring in the passing game, the Bruins were downright inept at throwing the ball.

For 21/2 quarters, coach Rick Neuheisel spent much of his sideline time with the offense lecturing starting quarterback Richard Brehaut (who was the backup when the season starter, and took over after Kevin Prince's season-ending knee injury).

A case could be made that Brehaut's misread during a second-quarter drive that resulted in a Cort Dennison interception (the intended pass was 30 yards down the field to Taylor Embree) was the turning point of the game. UCLA led 7-0 at the time.

"I don’t understand what happened," Neuheisel said. "(Brehaut) thought the receiver was doing something else. Fundamentally, he was incorrect."

Then, Brehaut was knocked out of the game with a concussion, suddenly backup Darius Bell was in for his first game action. And finally third-stringer Clayton Tunney got his turn in the fourth quarter.

All three of them threw one interception, which likely is a first for the Huskies (getting three picks against three different signal callers in one game).

The obvious conclusion as the game wore on was that if the Bruins were going to win, it would be in a low-scoring affair.

"I think (Sarkisian) saw he didn’t need to take many chances given the (UCLA) quarterback situation on the other side," Neuheisel said. "He played conservatively, which was probably a wise move. And they were running the ball pretty effectively."

* Locker was still hurt: Broken ribs don't heal in two weeks - but it had enough for the senior from Ferndale to receive medical clearance for his final home game at Husky Stadium.

Sarkisian said he grappled with the decision since Saturday on whether to let an injured Locker take the field.

"It was a hard decision for me," Sarkisian said. "It wasn’t about the doctors this week – the doctors said he could play. This one was on me."

And that also factored into the playcalling, especially amid pass-protection breakdowns in the first half.

"I didn’t want to expose (Locker)," Sarkisian said. "This thing, to me, we’re in the fourth quarter of the game. We didn’t have to win the fourth quarter of the season all in this one shot."

The Huskies had eight rushes of 10 or more yards (Callier had four, Polk had three, Locker had one). A ninth one, a Polk 49-yard scamper, which would have been the longest gainer of the game, was called back by a skimpy offensive-holding penalty on right tackle Cody Habben.

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