Dec. 22, 2012
|Boise State 28, Washington 26
Sat. Dec. 22 | Maaco Las Vegas Bowl | Sam Boyd Stadium
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
"I'm proud of you," Sarkisian told the bullish Bishop.
Speaking of pride, Keith Pride stood tall in front of cameras, notebooks and pens on a concrete walkway outside Sam Boyd Stadium. He took full blame for how this uneven Huskies season ended.
"I need to learn how to finish games," the redshirt junior said. "I cost my team the ball game."
Austin Seferian-Jenkins epitomized the talent and promise of the program. The wondrous sophomore spoke of how impressed he was with his team rallying from 18-3 down into the lead late. The 6-foot-6 tight end who already owns just about every UW record for the position there is said how "blessed" he was to have two more seasons to play for the Huskies.
He smiled and reiterated, yes, he means two years.
This game, the emotions, the end result all fit Washington's season. So excruciating. So frustrating. So ... mixed.
Sankey did everything against Boise State in Saturday's MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Except score the winning points.
The sophomore had an electric, 205-yard rushing day, one rushing touchdown, plus 74 more yards in receptions to get the Huskies across midfield in the final 25 seconds. But Boise State safety Jeremy Ioane stepped in front of departing senior Cody Bruns and intercepted Price's final pass with 14 seconds left to end the Huskies' thrilling, excruciating loss to the 20th-ranked Broncos 28-26 in a wild afternoon in the desert.
"I'm feeling disappointment," Sankey said after the greatest rushing performance in the history of Huskies bowl games. "A lot of mixed emotions. "An MVP trophy doesn't mean much when you lose."
Washington, which finished the season 7-6, rallied from being down 18-3 in the first half to take a 26-25 lead on a 38-yard field goal by Travis Coons with 4:09 left. But swirling winds may have caused Coons' ensuing kickoff to be short, to the 11. A 46-yard return of it to the UW 42 set up the Broncos for their short drive to the go-ahead field goal. Quarterback Joe Southwick gained just enough sneaking on fourth and inches at the UW 33 with 2 minutes left to put kicker Michael Frisina in position to give Boise State the lead from 27 yards out with 1:16 remaining.
Sarkisian said he thought of challenging the spot on Southwick's sneak but realized replays on where the ball is spotted on dives into a sea of men rarely are conclusive enough for a changed call. Plus, Sarkisian wanted to keep his time outs that late, and if his challenge did fail he would have lost one.
After Frisina's field goal the Huskies responded yet again.
"We had the feeling of belief," Sankey said.
Freshman Shaq Thompson took his first career kickoff return to the 35. Two catches and runs over the middle by Sankey for 10 yards and one for six more to Seferian-Jenkins had UW at the Boise State 46 with 22 seconds to go.
Price then saw his first option, Seferian-Jenkins covered over the middle by a defense that double- and even triple-teamed him all day. He looked deeper down field to Bruns, whom he saw free at the 25.
The quarterback never saw the safety waiting behind his wide receiver, baiting Price to throw the interception that sealed Washington's second consecutive, last-second loss to end this promising yet ultimately unfulfilled season.
"The guy just jumped out of nowhere," Price said. "Poor read. Poor throw. And I cost my team the ball game."
Forgotten was the juking, spinning, touchdown run Price made with 3 seconds left in the second quarter to get UW within 18-17 at halftime.
The memory of ending the Apple Cup and now the bowl game with interceptions on his last play of each game will endure as the ending to a season the Huskies are convinced should have ended 9-4.
"We feel much better than (7-6)," Price said. "Two games. Back to back. Kind of gave the ball game away to them. And a lot of that is on me.
"I have to make better decisions, and I have to learn to finish as a quarterback if I want to be successful. I need to learn how to finish; I think that's my next step.
"Trust me, I'm going to grind as hard as I did last season, if not more. I KNOW I can do this. ... I just need to get myself right mentally. I've just got to keep going."
Seferian-Jenkins had six catches for 61 yards to set the UW single-season record for yards receiving by a tight end. His 850 yards receiving this season broke Dave Williams' 47-year record of 795.
He doesn't believe he would have had this prodigious production through two years at any other school.
"No, God put me in this position, to put me back to Washington to revive a position that had died," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I'm just so thankful and blessed."
He and the Huskies were anything but that in another skittish first half.
The offense failed to convert its first six tries on third down. Price's passes were sailing short, far and wide of open receivers.
But Sankey kept running bullishly, looking like the record-setting back he replaced, Chris Polk. Playing in front of his mother and grandmother from Ohio plus his father and step-mother from California, Sankey had 130 yards rushing and another 48 receiving by halftime.
He often ran through 300-plus-pound Broncos as if they were plastic, play ponies to complete his rise from third-option tailback in August to a 1,439-yard back. It was the third-best rushing season in UW history.
Only Polk's 1,488 last year and Corey Dillon's 1,695 yards in 1996 were better.
"He's fearless. I mean, that's how he's been running all season," Seferian-Jenkins said. "He's the most under-rated running back in the Pac-12.
"The guy does everything. He catches. He pass blocks. And obviously he can run."
Sankey's 26-yard bolt got UW back in the game at 18-10 with 5 minutes left in the first half. Then Price, who missed on 14 of his first 25 throws and finished 20 for 39 for 242 yards with two interceptions while getting sacked four more times, connected with Seferian-Jenkins on a curl route inside for a 6-yard touchdown. Price 2-point conversion pass intended for Kasen Williams was broken up, and UW was down 25-23 until deep into the fourth quarter.
Coons bounced back from missing a 41-yard field goal that would have given Washington the lead earlier in the final period quarter by nailing a 38 yarder from the same right hash mark with 4:09 left. That put the Huskies up for the first time.
That was at the end of a 14-play drive on which Price, Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins led from UW's own 4 to the Boise State20.
Ultimately the team that often confounded itself all autumn - being the only conference team to beat Rose Bowl-bound Stanford, beating No. 7 Oregon State, yet also losing an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and then the game to a Washington State team that had been winless in the league - ended the season in another confounding way.
"It hurts, especially because this is the last game. We are going to think about this for nine months," Williams said, already looking forward to the rematch of Huskies and Broncos for the unveiling of renovated Husky Stadium on Aug. 31, 2013.
"This is going to be our edge, what's going to be on our backs while we work out all offseason."