Huskies Give the Fans What They Want

SEATTLE - It wasn't exactly the Middleton Line, but for Steve Sarkisian it'll have to do. Washington tight end Kavario Middleton predicted the Huskies would hang at least 50 on Washington State this week, and they came up nearly three touchdowns short. It was about the only thing the Huskies didn't do well during a 30-0 whitewashing of the Cougars Saturday night at Husky Stadium.

After the Washington Huskies shut out Washington State for only the fourth time since 1950, the UW Head Coach praised the total team effort, one centered around one basic belief - Play Fast.

"Husky Stadium was electric again," Sarkisian said afterward. "I'm really really proud of our football team. We made a huge emphasis of making this a physical game, playing for 60 minutes relentlessly and not worrying about what the score is."

Washington's defense held the Cougars to only 163 total yards on 60 plays, the second lowest total for WSU all season long. The Cougars' 47 total yards rushing was their second-lowest in the Pac-10, just barely missing out to the minus-54 yards rushing Washington State came up with in their 27-14 loss to Arizona State.

The Huskies amassed 10 tackles for loss, and five sacks, a season-high.

"I thought they played really well against an offensive line for Washington State that was healthy and had their guys back," Sarkisian said. "That was really our biggest concern coming into the game and our guys responded really well.

"We wanted to make sure we continued to stop the run," Sarkisian said. "We wanted to make sure we kept pressure on the quarterback. It was a great plan by (UW Defensive Coordinator) Nick (Holt) and the guys and we did that tonight."

Most of all, they just physically kicked the crap out of the out-manned Cougars, who were playing just 13 scholarship guys in total on defense. And on offense, Beakins couldn't help them move the ball. At various times in the game, Washington took Washington State's quarterbacks out.

When the Huskies' Mason Foster picked off WSU starter Kevin Lopina with less than three minutes left in the first quarter, Lopina went out of the game with an apparent hand injury. And backup Marshall Lobbestael got rocked by UW senior safety Jason Wells with five minutes left before halftime. Lopina came in and then was hammered to the ground by defensive tackle Cameron Elisara with 1:49 left, out for the game with an apparent shoulder injury.

The Cougars were reduced to playing a walk-on QB, Dan Wagner, for the rest of the half. "After that it would be (former Ingraham QB) Jeffrey Solomon if Marshall wasn't going to be able to come back," WSU Head Coach Paul Wulff said.

"You never think quarterbacks go down like that," added Sarkisian. "Some of them were odd-ball freak things, and some of 'em were we got after the quarterback pretty good."

The QB merry-go-round stopped with Lobbestael coming in for the rest of the second half, but the damage had already been done: WSU only managed four yards rushing and three first downs the rest of the game.

"For our football team and our defensive players, that goes a long way with these guys in believing what we're doing and sticking to our plan and believing in this defense," Sarkisian said of his defense producing a coveted goose-egg on the scoreboard. "Shutouts at any level are very prideful to a defensive football team and I know our guys took a lot of pride in this one tonight."

On offense, when you want to be physical, it all starts up front with the running game. And for the Huskies it didn't start out particularly well, churning out 43 yards on 13 carries. But UW quarterback Jake Locker ran the offense efficiently, finding seams in the passing game that ultimately softened the Cougars up for Polk's 130-yard night in the second half.

Polk, who now has 1019 yards on the season, the most ever for a Husky freshman - beating out teammate Locker, who ran for 986 yards in 2007. Before that, the freshman record was held by Rich Alexis, who ran for 816 yards in 2000. And it was Polk's fourth-straight 100-yard game, a streak only bettered by Greg Lewis (10 straight games in 1989-1990) and Corey Dillon (seven-straight in 1996). If the redshirt frosh from Redlands (Calif.) East Valley can find enough yards in the Huskies' closer against Cal to get to 1100 (81), he would move up to No. 9 all-time for rushing yards in a season.

"He's still learning, but the one thing he has is toughness, physical and mental toughness," Sarkisian said of Polk.

But the real revelation was Locker, and his ability to take what the Cougars gave him - especially in the second half. The junior from Ferndale engineered drives of 7:10, 5:27 and 3:30 to put the game well out of reach. He finished the night with 290 total yards, his fourth-best total of the season, and only forced one throw in coverage that ended up being intercepted by the Cougars' Xavier Hicks. His 94 yards via the ground was a season-high, and it underscored Sarkisian's belief in the run/pass balance they continue to search for when utilizing Locker's immense talents.

"There has to be that balance, that fine line of keeping vision and trying to make that throw compared to pulling it down," Sarkisian said of Locker. "I think he's still finding his way through it. It doesn't happen overnight."

Washington State's Mike Ledgerwood, who led them in tackles with 14, wasn't too impressed with Locker. "He's a good runner and everything, there's not a whole lot else," the Tri-Cities native said. "I think he could have gotten a lot more, and I think we stopped him pretty good."

His head coach had other thoughts. "The difference in the game was number 10 (Locker) on their team," Wulff said. "He's almost a one-man show out there. He was the difference, period. It was pretty easy to see that."

With all due respect, coach - it was an 11-man game out there for Washington, and it was about time. Granted, they were playing a team that couldn't get out of their own way and didn't have enough scholarship players to start a hockey team, let alone a competitive Pac-10 squad, but the Huskies still needed to prove to themselves that they could play fast and physical for 60 minutes regardless the opponents. And they did that.

"It's not about the Cougars, it's not about USC," Sarkisian would say after the game. "It's always and forever will be about us and our ability to stay locked into what we're doing, the way we prepare and the way we practice."

Whether it was Elisara piledriving Lopina, Nate Williams continually cracking on Lobbestael, or the Huskies' Nate Fellner and Victor Aiyewa lighting up chumps and smoking fools on special teams, Washington finally played with a confidence in their abilities and a comprehensive understanding of what was expected of them - and it showed. What is yet unknown is if this team can play that way on a weekly basis, or whether or not the result on the scoreboard had more to do with the opponent than themselves. They'll probably find that out next week.

"These guys wanted to play well tonight," Sarkisian said. "They were excited about it. They practiced well and they really wanted to come out and put out a great showing, for obvious reasons."

"Man it feels so good," senior linebacker Donald Butler added. "We haven't won since my first year when we went down to Pullman, and after two years to come back and get a shutout win just can't be described by words."


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