Bishop Sankey sets school records for single-season yards rushing and career touchdowns – on the same play that gave the Huskies their first lead in the fourth quarter. The defense made big plays from there to seal 27-17 victory in the 106th Apple Cup. UW (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) now awaits word on its bowl.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – The governor was presenting the Apple Cup trophy to the Huskies. The players were roaring along with the Dawg Pack student section behind Husky Stadium’s west end zone.
Bishop Sankey was shaking Gov. Jay Inslee’s hand Friday after another 200-yard rushing game in which he set two school rushing records.
Keith Price? He stood off to the side of the purple-and-gold (and black) postgame party. He was alone, staring into the turf.
The Apple Cup was back on Montlake. But the resilient, embattled quarterback was taking stock of what was swirling around – and inside -- him. His personal rally from an over-anxious, skittish first half of his final home game. Five years as a Husky going from 0-12 to eight wins entering a fourth-straight bowl game next month. His mother Shaundra Manuel-Price and grandmother Gail Manuel, the women who raised him in Compton, Calif., cheering a few feet away. Already owning a college degree he once thought improbable.
“I just needed a moment to myself,” the fifth-year senior quarterback said, admitting to postgame tears.
“From last year (at the Apple Cup loss in overtime in Pullman) to this year, I remember it was around this same time and my eyes were bloodshot red. I couldn’t believe what was going on that season. It felt like I couldn’t catch a break. I’d worked so hard.
“I mean, words can’t even describe what I felt (today).”
Sankey – can we now promote him to ArchBishop? -- plowed for 200 more yards rushing. He had 139 of them in the decisive second half, with the go-ahead touchdown run in the third quarter that set school records for single-season yards rushing and career rushing touchdowns. Greg Ducre had a game-turning interception to set up Price, returning from a shoulder injury and his anxious first half, running in from 2 yards for the clinching score in the fourth quarter.
Price then did an uncharacteristic touchdown dance that he refused to name afterward.
“I can’t,” Price said. “It has a curse word in it.”
That’s how the Huskies stormed back from a 10-3 deficit at halftime to a 27-17 victory over their archrival Cougars in the 106th Apple Cup Friday afternoon, amid a raucous scene with 71,753 partiers inside Husky Stadium.
This year, it was the Cougars who were left cursing.
Sankey now has 1,775 yards, 80 more than Corey Dillon’s previous record from 1996. Sankey also got his 35th career rushing touchdown, one more than Napoleon Kaufman’s old mark.
“It’s a great honor,” Sankey said in his usual, understated way. “I couldn’t have done it without my coaches this year, and also my linemen: Micah (Hatchie), Dexter (Charles), (Mike) Criste, Ben Riva, (Colin) Tanigawa. All those guys, I couldn’t have done it without them.
“We just knew that we had to put the first half behind us and come out on fire in the second half. We knew we are a second-half team. We knew what we could do. We just had to go out there and do that.
“I couldn’t be more proud with how our guys responded.”
His coach was far more effusive.
“He’s an absolute stud,” Steve Sarkisian said of Sankey, one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s premier running back this season. “He deserves so much recognition nationally. The guy is just unbelievable.
“I’m glad he did it in 12 games,” Sarkisian said of the school records, “so people can’t say, ‘Oh, he did it in 13 games.”
Washington (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) got past the seven-win sandbar on which it had been stuck for each of the last three seasons, as Sarkisian got to eight victories for the first time in five seasons at UW. A chance for nine wins will come next month, in a bowl game the Huskies will get when announcements are made Sunday, Dec. 8.
Defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha was like Sankey, a stud. The junior coming back from two knee reconstructions the previous two years had a career-high two sacks, leaving him with 10 for the season. That’s tied for sixth most in any UW season. He had two more tackles for losses, all while he and fellow end Cory Littleton ran into the flat to take away many of Washington State’s short, quick passes that discouraged blitzing.
“Don’t talk to me. Go talk to Hau’oli,” Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said afterward. “He was awesome. Just awesome.”
Price shook a rough first half in which he threw an interception and fumbled three times, losing one. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 181 yards while keeping a pad under his injured shoulder and arm all afternoon, as UW welcomed back the Apple Cup trophy back after last season’s bitter, overtime loss in Pullman after Washington had led 28-10.
“It feels real good. It's like payback,” Huskies senior safety and co-captain Sean Parker said. “But it's more about us.
Sankey had 61 yards in UW’s sputtering first half, which ended with the Huskies trailing 10-3 and without a first-half touchdown for the first time this season. The Huskies faced third and 5 at its own 20 on the opening drive of the second half. They were 1 for 6 to that point converting on third downs.
Coach Steve Sarkisian then called for a middle screen to Sankey that the Huskies’ staff had schemed for at halftime to call on the first third and long of the second half. Price drew toward him the Cougars’ defensive line that had been charging hard and controlling the game to that point. The QB couldn’t believe how open Sankey was in the middle.
“Oh, my God!” Price said he thought at the time. “He’s naked!”
Price’s short pass found the regal runner near the line, behind four blockers. Sankey darted upfield untouched and then sprinted to the left sideline for 40 of the most important yards of the 405 Washington gained Friday.
The play got Price back into the game. His sharp pass from 18 found Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the middle of the end zone. The 6-foot-6 tight end leaped between two Cougars and secured his 20th career touchdown catch – two behind Reggie Williams for third most all-time at UW. And he did it while holding onto the ball though a crunching hit.
“Shoot, you don’t feel those hits when they are touchdowns,” Seferian-Jenkins said, grinning in the tunnel outside the Huskies’ locker room afterward. “You only feel those if you drop the ball.”
The timely screen pass also set off Sankey. The nation’s No. 4 rusher at 143 yards per game coming in romped for 80 yards on 12 carries in that third quarter. His touchdown run of 7 yards while bulling through a Cougar at the goal line gave Washington its first lead, 17-10 with 5:16 left in the game-turning period.
UW out-scored WSU 17-0 and out-gained the Cougars 190-63 in that third quarter.
“We just came out with another fuse, just on fire,” Parker said.
“We didn’t give up when we were down,” added linebacker Travis Feeney, who had six tackles, one of UW’s five sacks of Connor Halliday and another tackle for a loss. “We came back with heart. And it just feels great.”
Yet his defense still had work to do.
The sold-out stadium got tense when Washington State (6-6, 4-5) took over at its own 12 with 6 minutes left trailing just 20-17. A pass-interference penalty on Marcus Peters felt eerily like last season in Pullman, when WSU rallied from 18 down in the fourth quarter with large help from four interference flags on UW.
On the next play, Halliday looked to throw over the middle. Ducre pounced on the ball as a Dawg jumps on a cat, catching it just before it hit the turf. The huge interception gave the Huskies possession at the WSU 37 with 5 minutes left.
“That couldn’t have come at a better time,” Parker said. “That sealed the game.”
Sankey romped five times for 26 yards to get Washington to the 2. Then the entire Cougars defense went with Sankey on Price’s fake handoff. Price was alone as he’s been all season on his jog around right end for the clinching score with just over 2 minutes to go.
Price let loose with an uncharacteristic touchdown dance in the purple “WASHINGTON” end zone, fulfillment of a promise he had made to teammates if he had a scoring run in his Husky Stadium finale.
Asked what he calls that goofy jig, Price grinned. He thought of mom and grandma waiting for him and said, “I can’t tell you. It has a curse word in it.”
The first recruit Sarkisian called the day the coach took over at Washington in January, 2009 started his final game at Husky Stadium, after Cyler Miles played for him in last week’s 69-27 win at Oregon State. Price hurt his throwing shoulder late in the first half two weeks ago at UCLA.
But there was no way UW’s career leader with 74 touchdown passes and a completion percentage of .637, who spurned Oregon and Arizona State and others who offered him scholarships after Washington did, was going to miss this one.
“It’s been a great journey for Keith,” Sarkisian said. “The last five years of his life are going to shape him for the next 60, 70 years of his life. He’s got tremendous character.”
UW honored 16 seniors and graduating, redshirt juniors before this final home game of careers that have brought the Huskies back from oblivion to the cusp of nine wins.
“I just got done telling them, they chose to come to the University of Washington when it wasn’t the hottest place in the conference or the country to come play,” Sarkisian said. “They came here and put an investment in this program. And that investment has paid off.
“They go out of here with the football program better than it was when they got here. ... These guys are the catalysts for what we’ve done here.”
Price has been one of the chiefs of that rise.
“I wanted to be a part of turning this program around. That was my goal,” he said. “And I accomplished it.
“I’m just proud,” the quarterback said, raising his hands off his lap toward the ceiling under Husky Stadium. “I’m just so happy right now.”