Polk and Fogerson are UW's 'Bread and Butter'

Steve Sarkisian is quite comfortable using a small army of running backs during the course of a season. It first came into vogue with the famous 'Thunder and Lightning' combination of Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Since that nickname is taken, I'm suggesting another one for Chris Polk and Johri Fogerson - 'Bread and Butter'.

Of Washington's running back corps, Polk and Fogerson are making things happen. Polk is averaging 20 carries a game so far in 2009, and the O'Dea sophomore is finding ways to impact a game far from the backfield. When he turned a simple screen pass into a 51-yard gain early against LSU, the 6-foot-1, 191-pound Fogerson showed that he belonged on the big stage.

"Just having the ball in my hands, I feel as any running back feels that when you have the ball in your hands - you can make things happen," Fogerson said this week in preparation for the Huskies' next challenge. He is the third-leading receiver in yards so far, with a team-high 23.4 yards per catch average.

"Having that feeling every time I get the ball just feels great."

For the Huskies, the stage won't get any bigger this fall than this Saturday, when they host the No. 3 Trojans, boasting a backfield bursting from the seams. So far USC has 12 players with carries through two games, with an average of 5.4 yards per carry.

"They are game tested now," UW Running Backs Coach Joel Thomas said Tuesday. "They've been in the fire, and when something has broken down they've made plays. The screen pass to Johri, for instance...he made a play. When you get players in situations like that, how to they react? He made a play.

"If guys are running well, we're not going to pull the ball out of his hands. We want the ball in our playmakers' hands as much as possible."

The irony of the situation is that there were no real clear-cut number-ones at running back coming out of the spring. Polk had a solid spring game, but had been hampered with injury. And true freshman Demitrius Bronson arguably had the best spring, but has so far not seen any live action.

"Demitrius is...I call it the 'Bat Phone'," Thomas said when asked if UW is possibly looking to redshirt the 5-foot-10, 206-pound RB from Kentwood. "He's ready to roll. We're getting him better. When the time is ready to go, you'll see 22 running up and down the sideline and hopefully having a lot of success."

But after Polk and Fogerson, it's a mash. No one back has an edge, even though Curtis Shaw did get five snaps in the fourth quarter of Washington's 42-23 win over Idaho. "We wanted to get him in there and get playing," Thomas said of Shaw. "He hasn't played in over a year, so it was an opportunity for him to go in and get some carries and get used to playing ball. Obviously the first time he touched the ball wasn't what we envisioned, but he had a short memory, got back in there when he had a chance to carry the ball and did some nice things."

If you had to put odds on who might come in as the third back against USC, you'd probably lose your money. Even Thomas deferred when asked who he would go to. "Curtis, Willie (Griffin) and Demitrius all offer something a little different, and I've coached long enough to understand that there's a chance that, as the season goes on, you might be down to who is the number three, number four, number five," he said. "They experienced that last season with injuries."

True enough. Because of Polk's shoulder injury and an ankle injury to David Freeman - as well as quarterback Jake Locker getting hurt in the fourth game of the season - Washington was limited in what they could do last year in the run game. As a result, a true freshman - Terrance Dailey - led the team in yards.

But he left in the spring, as did Freeman and Brandon Johnson - so in many ways, the Huskies were right back where they started. But a healthy Polk and revitalized Fogerson have taken up the challenge.

"Chris has done a great job," said UW Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier. "When guys go in, and they show production, they're going to get more carries. Chris established himself as a starter at the end of camp, and that's why we named him the starter. He and Johri have done a nice job."

Polk and the Trojans have history. He verbally committed to then-USC Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Head Coach Pete Carroll before eventually signing with Washington. If this game means more to him than the others, Thomas doesn't know about it.

"It's scheduled game number three," Thomas said. "(Polk) hasn't said boo as far as that other talk that's out there. That's how we keep it. We want to have our play elevated to a certain level no matter who we play. We want to make sure we have our 'A' game no matter what. That's how Chris, as he's growing as a player and as a young man, that's something he's understanding as we go."

"It's just a regular game," added Fogerson. "It's not bigger than any other. Of course maybe for the coaches between Pete and Coach Sark there might be a little juices flowing for them just because they're coming from the same side, but as a team we're attacking this as a regular game and it's not bigger than what it is."

Locker at 60 percent: Jake Locker is 42-70 so far through two games, which puts him right at 60 percent for completion percentage. Tuesday he was 10-11 for 135 yards in the team period, 4-7 for 37 during first-down period, and 2-4 for 19 yards and a pick-six to safety Greg Walker during the third-down period.

Third Down Warriors: UW is currently second in Offensive Third-Down Efficiency in the country behind Florida. They are converting at a rate of 66.67 percent (22-33). USC is 8-25 in third-down conversions, a rate of 32 percent.

"Well, our kids have done a great job of focusing," Nussmeier said. "We talked about it every day at training camp: special situations. If you look at statistics in football, over time, one of the great statistics is third-down conversions are a key to winning. So it's something we've made a focal point of our offense. The kids have done a great job, and they've been executing."

Movement on the OL: On Tuesday it looked like they are trying to get Mykenna Ikehara up to speed as quickly as possible, as he has worked a lot at left guard. He also worked there Monday, and played some during the Idaho game.

Personal Matters: Tyrone Duncan started out at one of the defensive tackle spots alongside Cameron Elisara Tuesday because Alameda Ta'amu had to take care of some personal business.

Kicking Update: Erik Folk was 4-5 on the day, with a long of 44.

Get 'em While They Are Hot: Not sure why the USC game isn't sold out, but it isn't. There are still 7,000 tickets still on sale, including 5,000 non-obstructed view seats, and that's even with the 3,000 or so that have been sold since last weekend's game. Call 206-543-2200 to reach the Husky Ticket Office for more information.

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