You’ll have to congratulate Bishop Sankey another time. The Washington running back is too busy achieving to revel in his accolades.
He knows his record-setting numbers because they are repeated to him often. He hears the praise, but he doesn’t listen to it. He makes the phenomenal seem ordinary, in performance and description. So you’re left to talk to someone else about how great he is.
Sankey lacks only a hype man. After Sankey ran for 200 yards in the Apple Cup and led the Huskies to a 27-17 victory over Washington State before 71,753 at Husky Stadium on Friday, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian was willing to volunteer for the job.
“He’s a stud,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a stud. He deserves so much recognition nationally and in our conference. The guy is unbelievable.
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“Somebody has to boast about him, so I will.”
It’s about more than the numbers, which we’ll get to later. Sankey has become the ultimate impact player. He’s the biggest reason the Huskies (8-4) have been cured of their seven-win malaise, a consistent runner who provides stability for a fast-paced offense that might appear helter-skelter without him.
When the Huskies need a big play, Sankey is always available to burst into the open field and show off speed that he supposedly doesn’t have. He rarely misses an opportunity to produce, even when the Huskies go away from him for too long.
In the 106th Apple Cup, Sankey set school records for career rushing touchdowns and season rushing yardage, but his biggest play came on a third-down reception early in the third quarter.
The Huskies trailed 10-3. In the first half, they were just 1 of 6 on third-down conversions and held the ball for only 10 minutes and 56 seconds of the game’s first 30 minutes. Washington State was controlling a surprisingly low-scoring game, and the Huskies faced a critical 3rd-and-5 on their first possession of the second half.
At halftime, the UW offensive coaches huddled and explained that the Cougars were running the same defense on third-and-long situations. So they decided to counter with a screen pass to Sankey.
Crazy enough, on the first third down of the third quarter, the Cougars showed the same defensive front. Washington quarterback Keith Price’s eyes grew wide as he looked Sankey’s way.
“I looked at him and thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s naked,’ ” Price said.
Price dumped a short pass to Sankey, who ran 40 yards to the Washington State 40-yard line. Two plays later, Sankey broke free for an 18-yard run. The drive ended with a game-tying Price touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
“Huge play,” Sarkisian said of the third-down pass.
For the 11th time in 12 games, the Huskies had scored on the first possession out of halftime. Idaho State was the only opponent the Huskies didn’t score against to start the third quarter. They led that game 42-0 at the half and toned it down the rest of the way.
Because it was the Apple Cup, Friday’s third quarter will go down as their finest halftime adjustment of the season. They scored 17 unanswered points and gained 190 yards in those 15 minutes. Of course, Sankey was at the heart of it all, accounting for 120 of those yards — 80 rushing and the 40-yard reception.
Sankey broke Corey Dillon’s 17-year-old season rushing record with a 7-yard touchdown run that gave the Huskies a 17-10 lead in the third quarter. He now has 1,775 yards this season. The touchdown was the 35th rushing score of his career, establishing a record in that category, too.
“It’s a great honor,” Sankey said of the records before thanking the coaches for trusting him and the offensive line for blocking for him.
On the excitement scale, Sankey’s words were as dull as a rush for negative yardage.
On the respect scale, Sankey left you with great admiration about his refusal to succumb to bombast.
Yes, he needs a hype man.
And, yes, there’s a long line of volunteers.
“He’s huge,” Price said. “Our system is run through Bishop.”
Said left tackle Micah Hatchie: “I’m happy for him. I respect just how he is. He’s a heckuva player. We open holes, he zips through, and he comes back and tells us good job.”
Sankey did that 34 times Friday to amass his 200 yards. His 308 carries (25.7 per game) is also a school record. You wouldn’t think an understated 5-foot-10, 203-pound running back could have such a presence. But Sankey is full of surprises.
As the junior running back left Husky Stadium, fans chanted “One more year!” during his trot to the locker room. Sankey acknowledged the cheers, but when asked about turning pro afterward, he said, “I couldn’t tell you that right now. I’ll see what the best decision is for me and talk it out with my family.”
Well, it’s certain Sankey will have at least one more game. The Huskies are bowl bound.
Cherish him while you can. And maybe, if you’re lucky, he’ll actually pause and participate in his own celebration.
|Top of the charts|
|Washington’s Bishop Sankey ran for 200 yards Friday in the Huskies’ 27-17 victory in the Apple Cup. Sankey has 1,775 rushing yards, a UW season record.|
|1,775||Bishop Sankey, 2013|
|1,695||Corey Dillon, 1996|
|1,488||Chris Polk, 2011|
|1,439||Bishop Sankey, 2012|
|1,415||Chris Polk, 2010|
|Bishop Sankey scored his 35th rushing touchdown in the Huskies’ Apple Cup victory Friday over the Cougars, passing Napoleon Kaufman for the top spot in UW history.|
|Rush TDs||Player, years|
|35||Bishop Sankey, 2011-13|
|34||Napoleon Kaufman, 1991-94|
|32||Joe Steele, 1976-79|
|29||Jake Locker, 2007-10|
|29||Rashaan Shehee, 1994-97|
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JerryBrewer