Washington Defense Shuts Down #18 Nebraska, 19-7

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ImageOn an uncommonly frigid night in San Diego, the Washington Huskies upset the heavily-favored #18 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 19-7 at the 33rd annual Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl.

The Huskies were led by sophomore RB Chris Polk, who carried 34 times for 177 yards and a touchdown on way to earning the game's Offensive MVP Honors. After receiving the championship trophy from Bowl President Eric Graves, Coach Steve Sarkisian thanked the fans for sticking with the team and told them all, "We're on our way!"

On an evening where the 57,921 fans experienced the coldest weather in the San Diego bowl game's 33-year history, the Husky defense was the story, as they repeatedly shut down the Nebraska rushing and air attack. The defense was led by senior linebacker Mason Foster, who received the game's Defensive MVP Trophy.

The victory came as revenge for the Huskies, who were throttled at home, 56-21, by the same Nebraska team in the third week of the regular season.

Nebraska also hurt themselves, as they were flagged for a bowl-record 12 penalties for 102 yards. The Cornhuskers 189 total yards of offense ranks as the third fewest in Holiday Bowl history. The two offenses also combined for the second lowest total in the bowl's history (529).

In the first half, the Huskies opened the scoring after DT Alameda Ta'amu recovered a fumble by Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead and returned it to the Nebraska 21-yard line. Three plays later, Polk got the Huskies on the board with a 3-yard TD run. After forcing two more three-and-outs, the Huskies added to their lead with a 39-yard field goal by Erik Folk.

The Cornhuskers responded early in the second quarter, as they marched the ball down the field on an impressive 10-play, 74-yard drive that featured an effective dose of running plays from Burkhead and QB Taylor Martinez. The drive was capped off by a 15-yard TD pass from Martinez to TE Kyler Reed.

Washington countered and began to move the ball down the field, but the drive stalled when Polk was stopped on a 4th-and-1 attempt at the Nebraska 43-yard line. Nebraska looked to capitalize on the field position, but Martinez's pass was intecepted by sophomore safety Nate Fellner at the Washington 23-yard line.

Washington had an opportunity to add to their lead before the half, but Erik Folk's 49-yard field goal attempt with two seconds left missed wide left.

The Huskies started the second half with great field position after Jesse Callier returned the kickoff 23 yards and had another 15 yards added to the end of the return because of a Nebraska face mask penalty. QB Jake Locker and the Washington offense wasted no time as they made their way down the field quickly before Locker pounded his way through two defenders on his way to an impressive 25-yard touchdown run.

After a 12-play drive, Washington had a chance to score at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but they opted to go for it on 4th-and-1, and RB Chris Polk was stopped at the goal-line. But Nebraska was unable to get the ball out of their endzone and were called for holding in the endzone, resulting in a safety for the Huskies, extending the lead to 19-7. The Huskies looked poised to add more after gaining strong field position after the ensuing kickoff, but Folk's 47-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright and fell short, his second miss of the game.

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