he frustrations of three consecutive seven-win seasons didn’t exactly wash away with the purple Gatorade that splashed off Steve Sarkisian’s back.
But it didn’t hurt.
The Huskies cleaned up with Washington State in the third quarter of the 106th Apple Cup, then doused their coach in celebration on the sideline after holding on for a 27-17 victory Friday afternoon before 71,753 spectators at Husky Stadium.
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In doing so, Washington (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) avenged a stunning collapse in the 2012 Apple Cup and won an eighth game for the first time since the 2001 team finished 8-4.
“I’m just tired of answering questions about it, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said, when asked if he was relieved to get over the 7-6 hump. “We’re a good team. We played hard, we’ve been playing hard all year. We’ve had three lousy quarters this season.
“But outside of that our guys have played good football. We haven’t been perfect, but we’ve played hard.”
Washington will likely have to wait until next week to find out where it will be headed for a bowl game, though most have the Huskies projected to play Brigham Young in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Francisco.
Friday, in the regular-season finale for both teams, the Huskies certainly weren’t perfect in the first half.
Washington senior quarterback Keith Price committed two turnovers in the first half during his return to the starting lineup, which led to two scores for Washington State (6-6, 4-5). That helped the Cougars build a 10-3 halftime lead.
In the second half, UW’s Bishop Sankey took over. He broke two rushing records with his 7-yard touchdown run that also broke a 10-10 tie in the third quarter. Sankey had 80 of his 200 yards in the third quarter while breaking Corey Dillon’s 17-year-old record for most rushing yards in a season by a UW running back.
Dillon rushed for 1,695 yards in 12 games in 1996. Sankey enters UW’s bowl game with 1,775 yards. His third-quarter touchdown was the 35th of his career, pushing him past Napoleon Kaufman for the most in program history.
“The guy is unbelievable,” Sarkisian said.
Sankey, who starred at Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, had 34 carries and finished with his third 200-yard game of the season. His one reception, though, might’ve been his biggest contribution Friday.
On their first drive of the third quarter, with the Huskies facing a third-and-five at their own 20, Price hit Sankey for a screen pass that gained 40 yards. UW coaches had drawn up that play at halftime, based on what the WSU defenses had been showing on third downs.
Price saw before the play that Sankey would be left wide open on the play. “It was the perfect call by Coach Sark,” Price said.
Five plays later, Price hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10-10.
After Sankey scored on a 7-yard run to make it 17-10, Travis Coons added a 39-yard field goal, his second of the game, to extend the Huskies’ lead to 20-10.
Until Friday morning, it was unknown to the public if Price would be available to start his final game at Husky Stadium. Price sat out UW’s 69-27 victory over Oregon State last week with an ailing throwing shoulder, but he said he had no doubt he would play in this one.
Price admitted shedding a few tears before the game as he was introduced for the final time at home. He then spent much of the first half, when not on the field, with a heat pack on his throwing arm.
“I knew my shoulder was going to hurt. It’s not just going to heal in two weeks,” he said.
Redshirt freshman Cyler Miles warmed up on the sideline just before the third quarter, but Sarkisian stuck with Price.
At halftime, Price said, “Everybody was fine. We were calm. I was confident we were going to win the game. I knew I just needed to get going.”
Price capped the scoring for UW with a 2-yard option keeper with 2:08 left. He finished 15 of 20 passing for 181 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and one lost fumble. His 74 career touchdown passes are the most in UW history and tied him for ninth in the Pac-12.
The Cougars had rallied from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Huskies, 31-28, in overtime last year in Pullman. It was the biggest comeback in Apple Cup history.
In the fourth quarter Friday, WSU’s Connor Halliday converted a fourth-and-15 play with a 22-yard pass to Dom Williams, plus a personal-foul penalty on UW linebacker John Timu. Two plays later, Halliday hit Williams again, in the left corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown, cutting the Cougars’ deficit to 20-17 with 7:30 left.
Another miracle comeback?
Not this time.
UW’s Greg Ducre intercepted Halliday at the WSU 37 with 5:16 left, setting up Price’s touchdown run to push the lead to 27-17.
Timu then intercepted Halliday on WSU’s final drive to seal the victory.
|Best since 2001|
|The Huskies’ Apple Cup victory over the Cougars gave them eight wins for the first time since 2001. Under coach Steve Sarkisian:|
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.