BYU-Washington Preview

BYU-Washington Preview

Published Dec. 22, 2013 7:57 a.m. ET

While the departure of Steve Sarkisian has made for an eventful past couple of weeks for Washington, BYU has been stable at the top throughout an impressive run of bowl success.

Interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo will try to lead the Huskies to their highest win total in 13 years, and the Cougars go for their seventh victory in eight bowl games Friday at the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

Tuiasosopo was given the opportunity to coach Washington (8-4) after Sarkisian left to take the job at Southern California following a 27-17 Apple Cup win over Washington State in the regular-season finale Nov. 29. Sarkisian finished his Washington career 34-29 over five seasons, directing the Huskies to eight wins for the first time since 2001 this year.

Chris Petersen, who went 92-12 at Boise State with five conference titles and two Fiesta Bowl victories, has been hired to take over the program starting next season.


In the meantime, Tuiasosopo has the chance to savor his first head coaching experience of any kind. The 34-year-old former signal-caller is in his first season as Washington's quarterbacks coach after serving as an assistant under Jim Mora at UCLA.

He'll try to guide the Huskies to their best season since he earned Rose Bowl MVP honors in 2000, when they finished 11-1 with a 34-24 win over Drew Brees and Purdue.

"I'm humbled and so honored,'' said Tuiasosopo, who played for six seasons with the Oakland Raiders. ''It's a great, incredible honor to lead my alma mater in a bowl game. We still have a lot to play for this season. I am excited to go out and get a ninth win.''

Although a three-game losing streak in October took them out of contention in the Pac-12, the Huskies bounced back to win four of their last five and secure a fourth straight bowl appearance. They had missed out on the postseason for seven straight years from 2003-09.

Washington has dropped its last two appearances, including 28-26 to Petersen's Boise State team in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22, 2012.

The Huskies have split eight all-time meetings with the Cougars (8-4), though BYU has won the last three. In the most recent matchup, the Cougars pulled out a 23-17 victory in Provo on Sept. 4, 2010.

Following a five-game winning streak that made the program bowl eligible for a ninth straight season, BYU lost two of three before capping the regular season with a 28-23 win at Nevada on Nov. 30.

"We are looking forward to the opportunity to play Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "I'm proud of our team. We are excited to be in the postseason for the ninth straight year with a chance to grow our program facing an outstanding football program."

The Cougars have had quite a bit of bowl success since Mendenhall took over in 2005, winning six of eight overall and four straight following last season's 23-6 victory over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

This matchup features three of the nation's most prolific rushers in Washington running back Bishop Sankey, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, as well as one of the country's top passers in Washington's Keith Price.

Sankey is third nationally with a school-record 1,775 yards on 5.8 per carry and 18 touchdowns. He's coming off one of his best performances of the season with 200 yards and a score on 34 carries against Washington State.

Hill is 21st with 1,211 rushing yards and nine scores while also throwing for 2,645 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Williams is just behind Hill with 1,202 yards on 5.9 per carry and seven touchdowns after running 15 times for a career-high 219 yards and a TD in the regular-season finale.

The sophomores are the first duo with over 1,000 rushing yards in a season for the Cougars, who are 73-8 under Mendenhall when scoring 24 or more.

Price ranks 25th nationally with a 65.5 completion percentage and 258.5 passing yards per game. The senior has 20 touchdown passes and five interceptions, throwing only one pick over his last five games.

While the Huskies have one of the nation's top offenses with 38.5 points per game, they could have their hands full with a BYU defense that's allowed an average of 21.3.