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Originally published October 29, 2011 at 11:07 PM | Page modified October 30, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Chris Polk's five touchdowns lift Huskies to wild victory

Huskies qualify for a bowl game as Polk goes past 1,000 yards

Seattle Times staff reporter

Fox Sports | Highlights: Arizona - Washington

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In a game that often seemed to stretch the bounds of convention Saturday night, it was the Huskies who finally found some firm footing.

And it came from the reliable feet of running back Chris Polk, who tied a modern school record with five touchdowns as the Huskies rallied in the fourth quarter and subdued the Arizona Wildcats 42-31 in a wild affair in front of 59,825 at Husky Stadium.

Polk scored on a 5-yard run with 8:21 remaining to put the Huskies ahead 35-31, then scored another on a 2-yard run with 3:59 left to put the game away for good.

The other Huskies in the modern era to score five touchdowns were Hugh McElhenny in 1950 against Washington State and Corey Dillon against UCLA in 1996.

"It was amazing," said teammate Jermaine Kearse. "But he was just being Chris. That's the type of player he is. He's just a beast, a dominator."

The Huskies, seemingly still hung over from a 65-21 defeat at Stanford last week, fell behind 10-0 early. Then they appeared ready to break the game open before a bizarre 91-yard interception return by Arizona swung things back the way of the Wildcats. Then the Huskies finally pulled away.

"That game was pretty crazy," Kearse said. "There were a lot of crazy things that I've never seen, like their interception return. That was pretty crazy. But we finished, we kept fighting, and it worked out pretty well."

UW improved to 6-2 on the season and clinched bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season under coach Steve Sarkisian, in his third year at UW.

"Huge, huge," Sarkisian said of getting bowl-eligible. "I don't want that to go by the wayside."

The victory also made UW 4-1 in conference play heading into a showdown with rival Oregon this Saturday night in what will be the final game at Husky Stadium before it undergoes a $250 million renovation.

The much-maligned UW defense bent at times but settled down late to force three turnovers in the fourth quarter as UW pulled away.

Sarkisian said the Huskies dialed up some more pressure after feeling they had been too tentative against Stanford and also said the defense made "tremendous amounts" of improvement.

And throughout, the one stabilizing force was Polk, who rushed for 144 yards and had 100 receiving yards, becoming apparently the first player in school history to break the 100-yard mark in both categories in the same game.

UW forced three turnovers in the final 7:14, and for the game intercepted three passes. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles threw for 388 yards but led the Wildcats to just two offensive touchdowns. It was in stark contrast to last week, when Stanford ran roughshod over the Huskies.

"We wanted to come out and just show everybody we are not that type of team and we are a better team than we were last week," said linebacker Princeton Fuimaono. "We just came back and hopped back on the horse and had to come back and play our game the way the Huskies can play."

After Polk's 5-yard run put UW ahead, Arizona had broken into Husky territory with 7:14 left when Juron Criner fumbled and Fuimaono recovered at midfield.

UW then drove easily for another Polk touchdown to finally end the suspense.

Polk's go-ahead touchdown was set up by a 48-yard pass from Keith Price to Kasen Williams, a true freshman from Skyline High who made the biggest play of his young Husky career. Williams caught the ball over the middle, then broke a tackle to take the ball to the 21.

Washington, leading 21-13 in the third quarter, seemed ready to take control of the game when Price threw a pass to James Johnson deep in Arizona territory. But Johnson bobbled the ball right into the hands of Arizona safety Robert Golden, who grabbed it, then bobbed and weaved his way across the field, breaking three tackles in the process, and eventually breaking free down the left side and into the end zone.

A two-point conversion pass then tied the game with 10:40 remaining in the third quarter.

Sarkisian said he thought that play was one that a few years ago "could have set the stage" for a collapse by the Huskies.

But his team came right back with a 12-play, 76-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Polk to go back ahead 28-21 with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Arizona came right back as Foles completed four consecutive passes, the final a 9-yarder to Criner for a touchdown to tie the game — the drive was helped by a personal-foul penalty on Nate Fellner for a hard hit on Dan Buckner, a flag that drew the wrath of the crowd.

After a Washington three-and-out, Arizona then took the lead at the 14:10 mark of the fourth quarter on a 24-yard field goal by John Bonano to make it 31-28.

And it seemed even more ominous when Washington drove into Arizona territory and a Price pass was intercepted by Arizona's Trevin Wade at the Husky 29 with just more than 12 minutes left — a career-high three picks for Price.

But the much-maligned Husky defense forced a three-and-out and Washington got the ball back at its 19 with 10:41 remaining and drove for the go-ahead score.

"I was proud of our team that we found a way to win," Sarkisian said. "This wasn't an easy game, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy coming in."

And it didn't look easy at all when UW fell behind 10-0 early, Sarkisian saying the offense was "out of sorts."

The Huskies led 14-13 at the end of a first half that started sluggishly for the home team.

Washington seemed to still be in a Stanford-induced sleepwalk as the game began, allowing Arizona to score a field goal and a touchdown on its first drives while the Huskies went three-and-out the first two times it had the ball.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Chris Polk this season
Chris Polk passed 1,000 yards rushing for the third consecutive season. A look at his games this season:
Date Opponent Result Att. Yards Avg. Long TDs
Sept. 3 Eastern Washington W, 30-27 23 125 5.4 26 0
Sept. 10 Hawaii W, 40-32 22 107 4.9 15 1
Sept. 17 at Nebraska L, 51-38 22 130 5.9 25 1
Sept. 24 California W, 31-23 20 60 3 14 1
Oct. 1 at Utah W, 31-14 29 189 6.5 49 0
Oct. 15 Colorado W, 52-24 18 117 6.5 28 0
Oct. 22 at Stanford L, 65-21 15 144 9.6 61 2
Oct. 29 Arizona W, 42-31 34 144 4.2 19 4

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