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Huskies seize control in second half to upend Utes

Washington linebacker Jamaal Kearse (58) celebrates his opening-play touchdown after a fumble recovery. (Associated Press)
Washington linebacker Jamaal Kearse (58) celebrates his opening-play touchdown after a fumble recovery. (Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY – With his Huskies up just three points at halftime Saturday, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian asked for the “real” Keith Price to step up.

The sophomore quarterback obliged, hopping up on a stool in front of the entire team.

“Can we go back and play Keith Price football now? Is that OK?” Sarkisian chided.

Price flashed a grin, said, “Sure, coach,” and the team roared.

The Huskies then went on a 21-point scoring barrage en route to a 31-14 victory over Utah, spoiling the Utes’ first Pac-12 home game.

“He challenged me, and as a group, we stepped up to the challenge,” said Price, who finished 22 of 30 for 226 yards and three touchdowns to give him 17 scoring tosses on the season.

It didn’t hurt that Chris Polk ran wild in the third quarter, carrying nine times for 101 yards. He finished with 29 carries for 189 yards.

Polk not only surpassed the 3,000-yard mark in his career, he became the Huskies’ No. 2 all-time rusher. He surpassed Joe Steele (3,168) and trails only Napoleon Kaufman (4,106).

“That guy’s like a bowling ball,” Price said of the 5-foot-11, 222-pound junior. “Maybe he’ll get stopped (one play), then rip off a 30-yard run. He’s a great player.”

It didn’t hurt that the Huskies (4-1, 2-0) forced five turnovers by Utah (2-2, 0-2), including a fumble on the opening kickoff that Jamaal Kearse returned 18 yards for a touchdown.

“It feels good to get one that counts,” said Kearse, who made his first start at linebacker. “The feeling was great to be in the end zone with the ball.”

It took just 9 seconds, but Washington had a 7-0 lead.

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn tied the game at 7-all on a 16-yard pass to Dres Anderson with 6:59 left in the quarter. But the Huskies took the lead for good on a 44-yard field goal by Erik Folk on the final play before halftime.

Wynn did not play in the second half because of an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He finished 12 of 17 for 149 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham did not disclose the nature of the injury and said he would know more Monday.

Jon Hays, who had previously thrown one major-college pass, was intercepted on his second attempt. He fumbled in the fourth quarter before tossing a last-minute 4-yard TD pass to Dallin Rogers.

The Utes entered the game plus-nine in turnovers, but committed three in the first half – twice in the red zone in the second quarter.

Wynn threw his second interception of the year, as Sean Parker made the grab at his 4-yard line with 10:29 left in the quarter.

Six minutes later, Anderson cut back and looked for the end zone after a pass from Wynn, but Desmond Trufant forced a fumble and recovered at the Huskies’ 6-yard line.

Washington converted the third turnover into Folk’s field goal.

It was all Washington in the second half.

“I thought our defense was the key to this ball game,” Sarkisian said. “Their ability to keep us around while the offense could get going was critical.”

The Huskies are off to their best start since 2006.