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Tailback dominates in UW’s Apple Cup win

Husky running back Chris Polk jumps through the line to convert a fourth down and give the Huskies a first down deep in WSU territory on the way to the winning touchdown. (Christopher Anderson)
Husky running back Chris Polk jumps through the line to convert a fourth down and give the Huskies a first down deep in WSU territory on the way to the winning touchdown. (Christopher Anderson)

PULLMAN – Eighty-one seconds were left in Saturday night’s Apple Cup when, on fourth-and-1, Washington tailback Chris Polk watched teammate Eric Folk begin to line up for the go-ahead field goal.

Polk and his teammates’ reaction to the play call?

“We were all like, ‘We should go for it,’ ” he recalled.

Sure enough, Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian was forced to use a timeout with the play clock winding down. And during the break, Sarkisian quickly decided to put the UW offense back on the field and take a gamble with a familiar play call.

A week ago, Polk kept Washington’s postseason hopes afloat with a 1-yard TD run as time expired against Cal. And Saturday, in front of 30,157 at Martin Stadium, the sophomore broke off a clutch 15-yard dash on the same power running play.

Moments later, UW secured a 35-28 victory over Washington State and a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2002 with Jake Locker’s 27-yard fade pass to Jermaine Kearse.

Polk rumbled for 284 yards on 29 carries – the second-best rushing mark in program history – to help punctuate the Huskies’ late-season resurgence. They won their last three games to reach 6-6 and will play in either the Alamo or Holiday bowls.

“You know, it feels great,” Polk said. “You’re just going to have to treat it like any other game. Being that it was the Apple Cup and we’re bowl-eligible, it’s just that much sweeter.”

Polk spent much of the night getting into the Cougars’ secondary with cutbacks and jukes.

But he also dragged defenders for extra yards and exploited WSU’s tackling woes with his physical running style.

“He always runs hard,” Locker said. “I think that’s something we’ve come accustomed to every Saturday. … Today the difference is we got him on the second level and one-on-one with safeties and corners. He’s such a powerful runner, but he has a pretty good wriggle as well. And I think you saw that in a couple of his big runs. He made guys miss and got to the second level.”

Polk came within 12 yards of matching the UW school rushing record, set by Hugh McElhenny in the 1950 Apple Cup.

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