Vs. OSU: Chris Polk - First Quarter, First Drive.

Chris Polk is a workhorse. There's no better adjective that I can think of when describing him. It's an unoriginal, but classic description for a running back, and it fits Polk to a "T". He plows, he hauls, and he shoulders the load. Polk is somewhat of a anachronism; a throwback runningback who plays football in the modern era.

Chris Polk had a busy first quarter. He had 11 touches in the quarter. 10 carries, and 1 catch. Of those 10 carries, only one of them went for less than two yards, a rush that was stuffed for negative one yard  on first and goal at the end of the quarter. However, six of them went for four yards or more, a reflection of what appears to be new formula for unity along the O-line this season. Whereas in previous games, the O-line had two, maybe three guys playing well most of the game, while the others were a liability, a sign of asynchrony to a certain degree, the entire O-line, with the exception of a couple of false starts and holding calls, performed as a unit for the first time all year.

Granted, Oregon State's defensive line is not the standard barometer for measuring the success of your O-line, but they're not Portland state, either. With a new starting rotation, it's a start; it's something.

The Huskies start their first drive on a good note before Polk gets his number called for the first time. Callier returns the kickoff for a solid 21 yards. Locker hits Goodwin for 28 yards on the Huskies first offensive play of the game to the OSU 40-yard line.

1st and 10, OSU 40 (14:29)

After a timeout from what appeared to be confusion in the huddle, someone, Locker, perhaps, calls a time out. Sarkisian inquires. Locker convenes with Sarkisian and tells him what happened. Sarkisian accepts the answer, ignoring that the Huskies just used their first timeout less than 30 seconds into the game, and calmly calls a new play.

Huskies break the huddle in a 5-WR shotgun formation on the right hash mark. Four WR's are lined up on the left. Of the four, I could only make out DeAndre Goodwin, Jermaine Kearse and Jordan Polk. Chris Polk is the lone WR lined up wide right.

Offensive line is from left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

Sarkisian loves to line up RB's wide and have them motion and/or run end-arounds, as either a decoy or a weapon; in fact, it's a staple in Sarkisian's playbook. Oregon knew this, and they prepared for this. They shrewdly respond with nickel formation in man coverage, though with the SS positioned deep over the left side, over UW's group of four WR's. The reason that going for a nickel package was shrewd was because while the Huskies have five players lined up as WR's, Oregon State's coaching staff sensed that it was a run play, so instead of going with a smaller personnel with a dime formation, they opted for size and chose a nickel package. A smaller personnel could have caused them to get gashed for a long run.

Polk is motioned on an end-around. Ball is snapped while he is in motion. Locker hands to him, but acts as if the play was a zone-read option and runs directly forward; it was not sold very well. Nobody on OSU is fooled.

The 3 WR's on the left that I could see each find a man to block. Kearse takes on the MLB. Polk, the OLB, and Goodwin the SS. Polk is gaining good steam and is well on his way outside of the LT that Oregon State's defensive line no longer factors and begins to decide where his best area of space is behind his blocking WR's. Jordan Polk has the best block and position on his man. Polk follows Polk. Kearse and Goodwin initiate contact, but lose their man.. Kearse's man, the MLB, makes an athletic dive in mid-stride and tackles Polk after he gains seven


2nd and 3, OSU 33 (13:56)

Huskies in 3-WR Ace formation, TE strongside left. Oregon state in classic 4-3.

Offensive line is from left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

Callier, the left slot receiver, is motioned right. Ball is snapped for the second consecutive play while a RB lined up as a WR is in motion. This end-around business is not a theme any more. It's a staple. Callier is a decy; Locker doesn't even attempt a fake hand off to him. Callier was meant to draw the LE or a WLB; in this case, it would be teh LE. Doesn't work.

Locker hands off to Polk. The O-line is pulling left. Porter and Scaefer double-team the DT lined up on their side, leaving the LE unblocked. Their double-team is successful. The DT fails in his leverage (as if he had a chance with his 276-lb. frame against a combined 588 lbs); his momentum is forced downward. Porter immediately disengages and seeks a second-level block while Schaefer continues forcing the DT down.

The play was designed to create a hole up the middle, with a potential cutback lane to the right were Callier successful in drawing out the LE. Because the LE didn't follow Callier, Polk has no choice but to continue up the middle. He does. He leaps over the falling DT that Schaefer is putting down, but while in mid-air, he gets tackled for a one-yard gain by the LE, who, being unblocked, played contain, and promptly moved for the tackle once he saw Polk's intended path.

Schaefer is whistled for a holding call. On further review, I can see Schaefer grasping the the DT's jersey on his rear shoulder, but after the DT is already going down. I see the grasp, but no actual act of holding the defensive player. If Schaefer is guilty of anything, it's in not limiting his grasping to the front pads of the DT, where he can disguise it. Questionable call in my mind.


2nd and 13, OSU 43 (13:34)

Huskies break huddle with a 4-WR Pistol formation, two receivers on either side just inside the left hash mark. The two slot receivers are lined up on the LOS, with the two receivers lined up wide are lined up as flankers. Kearse is the left slot WR and Jordan Polk is the left wide out.

Offensive line is from left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

Oregon State is in nickel package in man coverage again.  Their SS cheats up to press up on Kearse, leaving them in a Cover 1 coverage. I get the feeling they're thinking " underneath pass." I'm not too sure, but they'd be right if that's what they were thinking.

Jordan Polk is motioned right. The CB on him follows him. The CB is playing off of him about 10 yards.

Ball is snapped while Jordan Polk is in motion, but he was only in motion briefly. It is so brief, that he is still the WR wide left when the play starts.

It is indeed a designed underneath pass, but not one that they anticipated: A screen. Chris Polk wheels out left into the flat. He turns inward for a Locker pass. It is not the most difficult throw, but one that needs to be put exactly at the right spot and exactly the right moment, and requires exactly the right amount of touch. Locker puts it on the money, allowing Polk to catch the pass in stride and go, which he does about 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Locker's perfect pass was crucial to this play, because forcing Polk to waste a slight bit motion on an errant pass could have killed the play. This is something that a QB like Mallet does not excel at, and this is something that makes Locker an intriguing pro prospect.That said,  I'll digress from Locker, because this is about Chris Polk.

Jordan Polk goes right to block inside deep, and Kearse runs out as if he were running a short out route. This was important because it drew out the SS from the play. Usually on a screen, a group of linemen of perhaps two or three (and maybe even the TE, if he's involved in the play) are involved in briefly initiating contact and then inviting the pass rush before disengaging and heading into the second level to block. Not on this play. Because there were four WR's on this play spreading out the defense, only one lineman - Kelemete -  disengaged and progressed into the second level.

Kelemete was the star blocker on this play. He doesn't even initiate contact with the DE. He just disengages from the line in an outward direction, finds the nearest blocker, in this case, the ROLB,  and enjoying a clear size advantage, "swims-slaps" him silly to the ground with one arm, continues his progress but northward this time, and gets a bare shove on the MLB that does enough to take him out of the play for a moment.

With Kearse drawing out the SS with his route running, and Kelemete taking on two blocks, Polk easily gets enough space for the first 10 yards. Chris Polk stays patient, but doesn't waste time as he gets those 10 yards, either. His sense of timing is well honed , and it shows here.

There is one last key block that takes place before Chris Polk gets the first down and then some. The CB that was manning up on Jordan Polk is seen trying to elude J. Polk to the outside to make the tackle on C. Polk, but doesn't because J. Polk maintains his block and pace with him. The CB positions himself more to the sideline, thinking Polk is going to run up the sideline. C. Polk lets him think that long enough snakes just inside of him with J. Polk blocking for him and gets to the line of scrimmage before he finally meets contact. The free safety tackles  Polk, saving the Beavers from getting scored on.


1st and 10, OSU 24 (13:14)

Huskies in 3-WR Split-back, Shotgun formation. Beavers in classic 4-3. Callier is offset left to Locker; Polk offset right to Locker.

Offensive line is from left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

For once, no one is motioned.

Ball is snapped.

The line pulls left, with Kelemete going one-on-one, Tolar and Christine double-teaming the DT on their side, and Porter and Schaefer double-teaming the DT on theirs, leaving the LE unblocked. Tolar's and Christine's double-team was only designed to last for the first couple of seconds before Tolar was to disengage and seek a second-level block, relying on Christine to maintain the block one-on-one. When Tolar disengages, Christine finds himself "punched" back a yard, which let the DT get separation, before he regains his footing and puts a stop on the DT. Fortunately, this did not factor at all in the play, but it illustrates a concern with Christine in potential one-on-one situations. Relative to elite prospects in terms of physicality, he's not powerful in the upper body, and not exceptionally so in his lower body (though he's got decent power down there) so what happens when faces off against strong NT's in 3-4 defenses where they are not just powerful in the legs, but possess strong punches? It would be a considerable concern, if one thinks about what can happen against a team like Stanford who do possess such DT's.

Callier sprints right to the LE lay a designed body block to the LE. It succeeds. When he takes out the LE, there is a lane  In the meantime, Locker hands off to Polk.

Polk quickly gets to the line of scrimmage and breaches the brief lane made available for him by and between Callier and the Porter/Schaefer double-team. Polk does not possess racehorse speed like the kind that Chip Kelly covets, but it's amazing how little motion he wastes. In the handoff, Polk takes a couple of misdirection steps left, spots his lane to the right, cuts right and scissor-steps like a boxer does without losing an iota of momentum and exploiting the open running lane. Polk gets about two yards after the LOS before he meets contact from the LOLB and is downed after a gain of five.


2nd and 5, OSU 19

Huskies break 3-WR Shotgun formation. Marlion Barnett is strongside left. All three WR's are lined up to the right. Polk is offset to Locker's right.

Offensive line is from left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

Beavers in 4-3 over in man coverage with the SLB playing 5 yards off the TE, and with an interesting look on the D-line: Their 3-tech is paired almost shoulder-to-shoulder with their RE, and their LE is lined up wide.

Ball is snapped. Locker hands off to Polk. This time there is no fancy footwork. Just a direct run to the LOS.

The O-line does a complex array of man-blocking. Christine snaps the ball and doesn't take on anyone. He proceeds to the second level and takes the MLB. Kelemete does the same, but instead of proceeding to the second level, he disengages from the LOS and wheels right, chips the man that Porter is blocking, but is losing, and picks up the LOLB just behing the LOS. Tolar takes the DT on his side, and Barnett, the RE.

The LOLB that Kelemete meets with actually collides with enough force to push Kelemete back for a moment. This is unfortunate, because Kelemete, who had already lost a precious split second chipping Porter's man, was Polk's primary lead blocker and he's behind the LOS at the wrong time. Polk is already just behind Kelemete when Kelemete meets the LOLB. Polk, who looked as if he had intended on going right, digressed. Being the patient back he is, he put his right hand on Kelemete, does a brief scissor-step to check for only the briefest moment what's available to his left, finds there's little space there and even less to his right, and apparently deciding that he's better off going left, heads exactly just left of Kelemete and meets contact at the LOS before getting tackled for a gain of two.

Polk's patience, vision, and ability to not waste movement saves this play from resulting negative yardage. On a bit of a side note, this play also had the potential of gaining several more yards than it did. The defensive player who covered Polk's space to the left, and met him at the LOS was the RE. It was mere luck that the RE ended up where he was in position to make the tackle. While the whole O-line didn't adequately block on this play, Marlion Barnett absolutely blew the RE off the LOS. Unfortunately, this allowed the RE separation from Barnett and once he saw the direction that Polk was going in, he went to cover the gap. Barnett had to chase him down to try and block him, but was unsuccessful.


3rd and 7, OSU 9 (11:23)

3 -WR, 2-back Pistol formation. Callier is lined up wide left. Kearse is right slot and Goodwin wide right. Austin Sylvester is lined up several yard behind the LT. 

Left-to-right: Kelemete, Tolar, Christine, Porter, Schaefer.

Oregon State is in 4-3 man. Nothing fancy

Callier is motioned, this time, not for an traditional end-around, but for a triple-option end-around.

Ball is snapped while Callier is in motion.

Kelemete and Tolar go one-on-one. Christine, by design, and not because of any inability of his, doesn't block anyone and immediately proceeds to the second level. Porter takes the 3-tech lined up on Christine. Schaefer, like Christine, doesn't block anyone and proceeds to the second level, again, by design. This leaves Sylvester running to block the LE.

Locker hands off to Polk and he takes off right with the intention of drawing the LOLB to him in case of an option play. The LOLB doesn't bite.

Everyone is assignment-correct,  and a lane is open for Polk, which he takes advantage of. However, the LOLB is unblocked, so he meets Polk after Polk gains 3 and stops him there with the help of a gang-tackle that ends the play.

This was Polk's last touch of the first drive. It would result in the Huskies getting called for a false start on the next play (James Johnson was the guilty man) and Locker fumbling the ball and losing it.

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