Washington's coach Steve Sarkisian likes Huskies' new smashmouth style | Notebook
Washington ran all over Nebraska and played a physical brand of defense in Thursday's Holiday Bowl that looked a lot like the old Huskies.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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SAN DIEGO — It felt like old-school Huskies football, as Washington dominated on both sides of the ball in beating Nebraska 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl Thursday night.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said it was also a template for the future.
"I think we are playing the brand of football that we always thought we could," he said. "It just took us a little longer than maybe we all wanted to. But we are running the football and playing defense, and it's a physical brand of football and it's something we always wanted to play and we are just there now."
They displayed that newfound ability in somewhat shocking fashion, out-rushing Nebraska 268-91, holding a Cornhuskers team that came into the game ranked No. 5 nationally in rushing to its lowest total of the season.
Washington's rushing total, meanwhile, was its second-highest this season and accentuated a late-season shift to running the ball more.
The Huskies had struggled to throw against Nebraska in a 56-21 loss in September against a Cornhuskers defense that typically lines up with five defensive backs. So the plan was to spread the field and create running lanes for running back Chris Polk and quarterback Jake Locker.
"We knew coming into this game we were going to run the ball with a variety of runs, whether it would be handing the ball to Chris or designed runs directly to Jake or read-option stuff for Jake and Chris," Sarkisian said.
Polk gone wild
Polk finished with 177 yards, the second-best game of his career, topped only by the 284 in the Apple Cup.
The strong finish figures to make Polk think about maybe leaving for the NFL. However, one source said Polk has not filed paperwork to have his status evaluated by the NFL, and Polk said after the game he was looking forward to the start of classes next week.
UW's new wrinkles
The Huskies unveiled some new wrinkles in the first half. The only pass completion before halftime by Washington was a 16-yard pass from tailback Jesse Callier to Locker on UW's first offensive play of the game.
That helped set up Polk's 3-yard touchdown, which helped put Washington ahead 7-0. The TD run came out of the pistol formation.
The Callier throw to Locker was one the Huskies had practiced often leading up to the Holiday Bowl. Callier, who played some quarterback at Warren High School in Downey, Calif., had thrown one incomplete pass earlier in the season against Arizona State. He threw another pass in the second quarter out of the wildcat formation, overthrowing an open Jermaine Kearse two plays after Locker was injured.
Parker ready for '11
Strong safety Sean Parker, one of the touted members of UW's Class of 2010, didn't play against Nebraska due to a pinched nerve suffered in practice the week before the UCLA game. He hasn't played since.
"I damaged a nerve in my neck and didn't have strength in my arm so doctors are just being cautions about it and thinking about the longterm rather than rushing me back onto the field," he said last week.
He said the injury, while disappointing, didn't severely dampen a freshman season in which he emerged as the heir apparent to Nate Williams, who played his final game for the Huskies.
Parker, who chose Washington over USC and Michigan on national TV on signing day last year, made 10 tackles in reserve duty this season at strong safety and as a nickel back. He also had a key interception in the fourth quarter of the Oregon State game to help preserve that win.
"I felt like my freshman year was going good," he said. "I got used to a lot of things I started getting in there and showing off what I could do, so it was all fun for me, a great season."
Parker was in uniform when the game started but spent the first half watching, standing on a bench, waiting for his turn next season.
• There was a slightly ominous start to the Huskies' day at Qualcomm when a door to one of the team's buses momentarily didn't open, with players rocking it back and forth in an effort to get it ajar. It finally opened.
• The Washington men's basketball players were said to be watching the game in their hotel rooms in Los Angeles, where they are preparing for Friday's game against UCLA.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org