As with Washington State, the Washington Huskies didn’t need to watch Sunday’s bowl selection show to learn their postseason fate.
A report from ESPN — unsurprising because the network owns the bowl — confirmed Sunday afternoon what most thought when Washington finished the regular season 8-4: The Huskies will go to San Francisco to face an 8-4 BYU team Dec. 27 in the Fight Hunger Bowl (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
Confirmed: As expected, UW is going to the Fight Hunger Bowl.
— Kyle Bonagura (@KyleBonagura) December 8, 2013
Fight Hunger Bowl co-founder and executive director Gary Cavalli made a fearless prediction.
“This year’s match-up will be one of the very best in the history of our game,” Cavalli said. “We have two 8-4 teams, two nationally known programs, both with explosive offenses and big-name players. We expect a great game, a huge crowd and terrific TV ratings.”
The hosts transform AT&T Park from a baseball mecca into an awkward football field with short, temporary bleachers atop the outfield grass. The first-base side and left-field stands run parallel to the end zones and teams traditionally share one sideline.
One of three bowl games hosted at a baseball stadium (Yankee Stadium and Tropicana Field), the Fight Hunger Bowl was first played in 2002. Six Pac-12 schools (UCLA, Utah, USC, Oregon State, Cal and Arizona State) have appeared in it, and all but UCLA have won (lost to Florida State in 2006 and Illinois in 2011).
Starting in 2014, the game moves to Santa Clara’s yet-to-be-finished Levi’s Stadium, future home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. It will also for the first time pit the Pac-12 against the Big 12, beginning a six-year deal that runs through 2019.
Adding intrigue to the 2013 finale at AT&T Park is UW interim coach Marquess Tuiasosopo.
BYU is veteran-laden and physical, a football independent that posted wins against Texas (40-21), Utah State (31-14), Georgia Tech (38-20), Houston (47-46), Boise State (37-20), Middle Tennesee (37-10), all bowl-eligible teams. The Cougars lost 23-13 to Notre Dame and 27-17 to Wisconsin. The Fight Hunger Bowl will be BYU’s ninth consecutive postseason appearance.
Washington (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) has faced BYU eight times, most recently a 23-17 loss in Provo, UT in September 2010. The rivalry is knotted at 4-4. However, the Cougars have won the last three meetings.
“We’re very excited to have been selected to play in the Fight Hunger Bowl,” said UW athletic director Scott Woodward. “The game will be a new experience for our program and the many Husky fans in the Bay Area, and I am confident it will be a great one.”
The Cougars feature the 10th-best rushing attack in the nation (274.6 yards per game) and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. QB Taysom Hill, a Pocatello ID native, leads the team with 1,211 rushing yards, 2,645 passing yards and 28 TDs (19 passing, nine rushing). RB Jamaal Williams is a close second with 1,202 rushing yards (5.9 per carry) and nine touchdowns.
BYU’s 23rd-ranked scoring defense (21.3 points per game) is anchored by senior LB Kyle Van Noy, a projected first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Huskies honored at annual dinner
UW RB Deontae Cooper was voted most inspirational player by his teammates at the program’s annual awards dinner Sunday, taking home the 106th version of the Guy Flaherty Award. Cooper, a junior, ran for 270 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 after ACL injuries ended each of his first three seasons.
The Most Valuable Offensive Player Award went to first-team All-Pac-12 honoree RB Bishop Sankey (306 carries for 1,775 rushing yards and 19 total TDs.) DE Hau’oli Kikaha (eight sacks) earned Defensive MVP and K/P Travis Coons garnered Special Teams MVP for connecting on 14 of 15 field goals and averaging 40.7 yards per punt in 2013.