College football is all about tradition — more than a hundred and twenty years’ worth in the case of the University of Washington — so it’s notable whenever a player does something that has never happened before in school history. That was the case Saturday, when Chris Polk rushed for 144 yards and caught four passes for 100 more, becoming the first Husky to record a 100/100-game.
Hundred-yard rushing efforts have become routine for Polk, who has topped the century mark seven times in eight games this season. Saturday, he broke out of a tie with Napoleon Kaufman for the most 100-yard rushing games in Washington history with the 18th of his three-year career.
What’s new is Polk drawing upon his experience as a receiver in high school to pose just as much danger to defenses coming out of the backfield. Already this season, he has 18 catches for 249 yards. The latter number is most notable. Polk isn’t just catching screens and swing passes in the flat. He’s picking up big yardage when he catches the football. Last night, Polk went for 33 yards on a trick play with Devin Aguilar throwing the football and for 43 on a wheel route out of the backfield similar to the play that led to a 70-yard touchdown earlier this season against California. A third reception might have gone for more than 17 yards had Polk not reached the end zone.
If he continues at his current pace, Polk has a chance to make some more history with his ability as a receiver. Already, he ranks sixth in receiving yardage by a Husky running back dating back to the start of the Don James era:
Player Year Rec Yds YPC --------------------------------------------- Greg Lewis 1989 45 350 7.8 Greg Lewis 1990 20 345 17.3 Vince Weathersby 1985 46 314 6.8 Corey Dillon 1997 18 304 16.9 Rich Alexis 2002 27 266 9.9 Chris Polk 2011 18 249 13.8 Chris Polk 2011* 27 373 13.8
Projected to a full regular season, Polk would top the list, as shown by his second line. Nobody before complete stats are available on Sports-Reference.com is known to have more receiving yardage than Lewis; Hugh McElhenny would join this list with 339 receiving yards in 1951.
Looking at yards per catch reinforces that there are two very distinct styles among receiving running backs. Vince Weathersby, UW’s all-time leader in receptions out of the backfield, mostly piled up short completions. Polk’s catches have been more robust. His projection would merely tie him for 10th in the single-season leaderboard for total catches by a running back with Alexis and two others. Braxton Cleman, for example, also had 27 catches out of the backfield in 2002, but for a total of just 138 yards.
Oddly, Greg Lewis completely changed styles between 1989 and 1990, catching less than half as many passes for nearly the same yardage. Lewis’ 1989 season and Corey Dillon in 1996 are the closest comparisons to what Polk is doing this season. As a result, Polk is on track to join them at the top of the leaderboard for Husky single-season yards from scrimmage.
Player Year GP Rush Rec Yds ----------------------------------------------------- Corey Dillon 1996 12 1695 304 1999 Greg Lewis 1990 11 1407 345 1752 Chris Polk 2010 13 1415 180 1595 Greg Lewis 1989 12 1197 350 1591 Napoleon Kaufman 1994 11 1390 199 1589 Chris Polk 2011 8 1016 249 1265 Chris Polk 2011* 12 1524 373 1897
Already, Polk is closing in on 1,300 yards from scrimmage. I can’t say where that ranks because this stat isn’t tracked in the Washington media guide; I had to reconstruct this list from the all-purpose yardage leaderboard, which also includes return yards (of which Polk has none this season). Still, if Polk stays healthy, he’s likely to surpass last year’s total of 1,595 yards from scrimmage and possibly pass Lewis’ 1990 season. Add in a bowl game and Polk could become the first player in Husky history ever to account for 2,000 yards of offense. He would have the benefit of an extra game on the schedule as compared to Dillon and everyone else before this decade, but that would still be an impressive feat.