Updated Dec 29, 2013 - 12:45 pm
What we learned from the Huskies' bowl win
By Brent Stecker
After a month of significant change, with head coach Steve Sarkisian leaving for USC and Boise State's Chris Petersen moving in to take his place next season, the Huskies finally put the 2013 season to rest on Friday night.
They did it in fine fashion, too, holding BYU at bay for a 31-16 victory in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Here's what came out of Washington's last contest of the year.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Mackey Award winner, caught a touchdown in the Huskies' Fight Hunger Bowl win Friday, then announced after the game that he will declare for the NFL Draft and forego his senior season. (AP)
Three things we learned:
1. The Huskies made significant progress during the Sarkisian era.
For the first time since 2000, Washington (9-4) lays claim to a nine-win season. Whether fans wanted Sarkisian to stay or go, the nine wins are tangible proof that he turned the program around, and may even lend credence to the thought that he still had it pointing in an upward trend before he returned to USC. Whether that means the Huskies are now a legitimate Pac-12 title contender is yet to be seen, but it appears they have considerable momentum heading into the Chris Petersen era.
2. The Huskies won by playing their game on offense.
Even with the architect of the offense gone, all the signatures of a Washington win in 2013 were there in the Fight Hunger Bowl. The Huskies struck on their first drive by displaying dizzying efficiency and balance. Running back Bishop Sankey found the end zone multiple times. Quarterback Keith Price used tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins' height to their advantage on a big touchdown pass. And they opened the second half with a dominant touchdown drive. Those are the ways the Huskies climbed to eight wins during the regular season, so it was only fitting that they would all pop up in win No. 9.
3. The return game has the chance to be a game-changer in 2014.
Freshman John Ross, well known to be the fastest Husky, was bound to break loose sooner rather than later for a kickoff return for a touchdown. It finally happened against the Cougars when he went a full 100 yards to pay dirt in the second quarter, and it had a big effect on the rest of the return game. BYU was understandably nervous about kicking to Ross again, so it stayed away from him the next time out. The only problem was that Jesse Callier was ready for his opportunity, and the junior running back ran the kick back 47 yards to the Cougars' 35. Four plays later, Sankey was in the end zone for the second time on an 11-yard run. Petersen certainly had to like what he saw from Ross and Callier, both of whom are expected to be back next year.
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. Did Cyler Miles show Petersen something?
The freshman quarterback appeared in a game for the eighth time this season, though he didn't have too many opportunities to show what he can do after taking over for an injured Price in the second half. He was just 1 for 5 passing, though he turned heads with a 32-yard run. Is he the kind of quarterback Petersen will be looking to lead the program next season? Petersen is noted for building his offenses around his quarterback's strengths, but he hasn't tipped his hand on what his plans for the position will be next season. It wouldn't be a stretch for him to stick with Miles, however, since he is no stranger to an up-tempo style of offense.
2. Where will Marques Tuiasosopo coach next season?
The Huskies' interim head coach deserves a lot of credit for how he handled the team after taking over for the past month after Sarkisian left. He related to the players because of his own experience of going through a coaching change during his playing days at Washington, and he was able to maintain continuity for the program during a time of tumult. But where does he go from here? The door is reportedly open for him to stay on at UW and be a part of Petersen's staff, though it may not be as the quarterbacks coach. Then again, Tuiasosopo, 34, could look for a head job at a smaller school. Don't be surprised if that's the way he goes, considering that he half-joked a week prior to the bowl game that it would be hard to go back to being an assistant.
3. Will Sankey be back next season?
Seferian-Jenkins, the 6-foot-6 Mackey Award winner, announced after the game that he will forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. It's not surprising, considering he's the No. 40-ranked overall prospect on NFLDraftScout.com and projected to go in either the first or second round. Price, a senior, has an outside chance of being selected, as he's ranked 321st by the same site. Meanwhile, Sankey, a junior, is undecided despite being ranked 54th and projected to be selected in the second round if he does enter. Is there much else for Sankey to accomplish at Montlake, considering he's already broken the single-season rushing-yards and career rushing-touchdowns records? And how would he fit into Petersen's system? These are questions he will certainly look to answer in the coming weeks or months.
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