Despite playing without quarterback Keith Price and running back Bishop Sankey for most of the fourth quarter, Washington held on to defeat Brigham Young University 31-16 Friday night in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Huskies finished 9-4, the most victories they have had since 2000 when Friday’s interim coach, Marques Tuiasosopo, quarterbacked the team.
The Huskies, who celebrated by carting off Tuiasosopo from the field on their collective shoulders, recording their first postseason win since upending Nebraska in the 2010 Holiday Bowl in former head coach Steve Sarkisian’s second season.
Behind Price and Sankey, the Huskies forged a 28-16 lead through three quarters. But, almost simultaneously, Price, playing his final game for Washington, departed with a rib injury and Sankey exited after hurting his hand.
With redshirt freshman Cyler Miles at quarterback, Tuiasosopo and the Huskies did an exceptional job of clock management, even collecting a fourth-quarter field goal from Travis Coons and a late interception from linebacker John Timu to close out the victory.
The Huskies scored on a pair of 11-yard runs by Sankey, a 100-yard kickoff return by John Ross, a 16-yard TD pass from Price to TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the 45-yard field goal by Coons.
Price threw for 112 yards before leaving and finished his Husky career with 8,910 yards and 75 touchdowns, most in school history, including six in bowl games. Sankey ran for 95, increasing his season total to 1,871. He finished with 20 rushing touchdowns and was named the bowl’s offensive player of the game.
Their efforts offset a splendid performance by BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who threw for 274 yards and rushed for 143 and a touchdown, and kept the Cougars in the game until the fourth quarter.
BYU effectively lost, however, in the second quarter when Ross, a true freshman, took a kickoff and burst 100 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. The Cougars played catch-up the rest of the night and never gained the lead, despite extremely poor tackling by the Huskies’ defense, which allowed BYU 473 total yards.
Washington gained only 319, far off its average of 514. But the Huskies held the Cougars to field goals instead of touchdowns three times.
Sankey tallied his 19th rushing TD, and 20th overall, on Washington’s first drive. Price had two key throws during the 12-play, 71-yard march, hitting Seferian-Jenkins for 17 yards and Damore’ea Stringfellow for nine and a first down at the BYU 11. Sankey took it in from there, running uncontested around right end.
After holding BYU to a three-and-out following a successful fake punt, the Huskies had a chance for a touchdown on their next series, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-one at the BYU 3-yard line, when the Cougars dropped Sankey for a five-yard loss.
BYU put together an impressive, 12-play, 88-yard drive, capped by Hill’s one-yard run for a tie at 7. But Ross deflated the Cougars by returning the ensuing kickoff all the way for a 14-7 UW lead. The return broke the school record for a bowl game, 86 yards by Jerome Pathon vs. Colorado in the 1996 Holiday Bowl.
A 20-yard run by Hill and his 12-yard completion to Kurt Henderson set up a 45-yard field goal by Justin Sorensen, slicing Washington’s lead. DT Danny Shelton made the key play of the drive, sacking Hill and forcing BYU into a field goal rather than a TD opportunity.
Sorenson hit his second field goal, from 31 yards, with three minutes remaining in the second quarter to trim Washington’s lead to 14-13. BYU sustained the 51-yard drive largely because of poor tackling by the Huskies. But Jessie Callier returned the following kickoff 47 yards to the BYU 35. After Price threw to Kevin Smith at the 11-yard line for a first down, Sankey make two jump cuts to the right to blow past defenders as Washington extended its lead to 21-13.
Sorensen hit his third field goal, from 32 yards as the half ended. BYU ran 25 more plays than Washington in the first half and limited the Huskies to 142 yards while rolling up 297. UW had the ball for 11 minutes in the first two quarters.
On Washington’s first drive of the second half, Price threw his 21st TD of the season and 75th of his career, a 16-yard strike to Seferian-Jenkins for a 28-16 lead. Price made the key play by scrambling for 19 yards on a third-down play that set up the Huskies at the BYU 30.
Price made an uncharacteristically bad decision with four minutes left in the third quarter when he threw the ball up for grabs — and BYU grabbed it, taking the interception to the Washington 26-yard line. But the Cougars couldn’t capitalize, Sorensen missing a 44-yard field goal try.
A shanked BYU punt, for eight yards, set up Washington at its 46-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but the Huskies couldn’t convert the opportunity when, simultaneously, Price left the game with a rib injury and Sankey went to the sidelines after injuring his hand.
The final score came on Coons’ 45-yard field goal with 7:53 left.
NOTES: Seferian-Jenkins after the game told KJR radio he will forgo his senior year of eligibility and make himself available for the NFL draft . . .Washington senior DB Will Shamburger was sent home for an unspecified violation of team rules and DB Marcus Peters sat out the first quarter as an academic punishment . . . The game was the first bowl to feature two female officials. The Conference USA crew included head linesman Maia Chaka and line judge Sarah Thomas, who in 2009 became the first woman to officiate a bowl game at the Little Caesars Bowl . . . Washington is 17-16-1 in bowl games all-time and 5-4 in its rivalry with BYU.