Sports

Folk doesn’t have to be hero, just win

When the Huskies face No. 18 USC on Saturday afternoon, kicker Erik Folk would rather not duplicate his splendid 2010 performance at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

During Washington’s 32-31 upset of the Trojans, Folk went 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, including a 32-yarder he blasted through the uprights as time expired.

Although the clutch effort earned him recognition as Pac-10 special teams player of the week, Folk will be more than satisfied to remain a mostly obscure bystander on the sideline – as long as the offense can convert red-zone scoring opportunities into touchdowns.

“From a team standpoint, it’s always better not to be needed,” the senior said after the Huskies finished practice Wednesday afternoon. “From a personal standpoint? I kind of want to get out there.

“But I’d prefer not to be involved.”

With three regular-season games remaining, it’s hard to imagine how Folk could be less involved. He kicked three field goals in the opener against Eastern Washington, picking up his second conference special-teams-player-of-the-week award, then has gone 6-for-9.

Contrast those numbers to 2009, when the redshirt sophomore finished 18-for-21 on field goals. Last year he went 13 of 20.

The lost opportunities for Folk to salvage something out of scoring drives stalled on fourth down have been replaced by touchdowns: Chris Polk has rushed for nine of them, and Keith Price has thrown 25 of them.

If Washington reaches the USC end zone Saturday, Folk will attempt his 35th extra point of the season, tying a career high set in 2009. (And should he convert it, Polk will extend his school record streak of point-after kicks to 107.)

A native of Woodland Hills in suburban Los Angeles, two of Folk’s favorite college memories have come at the expense of USC. His game-winning kick at the Coliseum last season was preceded by a game-winner against the Trojans in 2009, three weeks into Folk’s career as a starter.

That 22-yard kick, with three seconds remaining, broke a 13-13 tie, and prevented the prohibitively favored Trojans from taking the Huskies into overtime.

“I’ll never forget the fans rushing onto the field after that one,” he said. “Jake Locker had gotten us down inside the yard-line, so it was a pretty short field. Another thing I remember was (Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian) coming up to the field goal team during the timeout and making us laugh a little bit. It made us calm down for a moment.”

Now that he’s approaching the home-stretch phase of his career, Folk doesn’t need comic-relief therapy to alleviate pressure.

“Erik’s just an excellent clutch kicker,” said Sarkisian. “I don’t think the moment is ever too big for him. He had those two kicks against USC, and there was a clutch kick two years to send us into overtime at Notre Dame.

“He’s had to make big kicks before, but I don’t think they’re big in his mind. They’re just a kick.”

Despite his success against USC – and his Southern California backround – Folk doesn’t have an intimate connection with the school.

Older brother Nick kicked at Arizona; another brother, Greg, played soccer at UCLA. Erik was recruited by Oregon, California and Nebraska before committing to the Huskies.

“I’ve got relatives who are USC fans,” said Folk. “And after the game last season, they gave me a lot of grief – except the UCLA fans in my family. They congratulated me.”

John.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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