SEATTLE – After three hours and 20 minutes, a combined 913 yards, seven turnovers, and three laborious replay reviews, the Washington Huskies finally accomplished one big goal Saturday night – getting bowl eligible.
And when Washington’s 42-31 victory over Arizona finally concluded at 11:01 p.m., players and coaches celebrated an accomplishment they said shouldn’t be undersold.
“Huge. Huge,’’ said coach Steve Sarkisian. “I don’t want that to go by the wayside, like it’s ‘Ho-hum – we’re bowl eligible.’ It’s a grind. This conference is tough. To get to six wins is great.’’
Getting six victories (which clinches at least a .500 record) guarantees the Huskies are eligible for a bowl for the second consecutive season, an accomplishment particularly meaningful for those who were here before Sarkisian arrived.
“To go to a bowl game for a second year in a row, it’s definitely meaningful,’’ senior receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “It definitely means a lot to me, especially coming from my freshman year, (going) 0-12. So it’s definitely a great feeling.’’
Oregon comes to town Saturday night to play the final game at Husky Stadium before it undergoes a $250 million renovation.
Oregon has won seven consecutive games against UW, all by 20 or more points, and opened as a 15-point favorite.
“We’ve got to play faster than tonight and we’ve got to bring our big-boy pads,’’ UW safety Sean Parker said.
Washington played just fast enough to outlast Arizona, dominating the final three quarters after falling behind 10-0 early. A UW defense that had been much-maligned after a 65-21 defeat at Stanford the previous week forced four turnovers and allowed just two offensive touchdowns. And the UW offense gained 437 yards after the sluggish first quarter, finishing with 489.
Most dominant was running back Chris Polk, who became the first player in UW history to reach triple digits in yardage in both rushing and receiving in the same game – he had 144 rushing and 100 receiving.
He also scored five touchdowns, tying a UW record held previously by Hugh McElhenny (1950 against Washington State) and Corey Dillon (1996, UCLA). And his 100-yard rushing game was the 18th of his career, breaking the school record held by Napoleon Kaufman.
“I didn’t even know I scored that much or I did all those things today,’’ Polk said. “The win, that means the most to me.’’