Bishop Sankey was the brightest spot of Washington's 28-26 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, rushing for a career-high 205 yards on 30 carries.
LAS VEGAS — Bishop Sankey entered the season fighting for playing time in what loomed as a potentially crowded Washington backfield.
He ended it Saturday having compiled one of the best seasons in school history.
The sophomore from Spokane was the brightest spot of Washington’s 28-26 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, rushing for a career-high 205 yards on 30 carries.
It was enough to earn him game MVP honors as selected by media, the first time in the game’s 21-year history a player on the losing team had won the award.
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Sankey wasn’t sure what to make of it, though.
“I am disappointed and feeling a lot of mixed emotions going on,” he said. “The MVP trophy doesn’t really mean as much if you come out the loser. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the win, but I’m proud that we fought all four quarters and we battled.”
The yards gained were the most by a UW player in a bowl game and tied for 16th in school history.
He finished the season with 1,439 yards, third-most in UW history behind only Corey Dillon’s 1,695 in 1996 and Chris Polk’s 1,488 in 2011.
Heady stuff for a player who had just 187 yards last season as a true freshman and then was thrust into a starring role when Jesse Callier — who started the season opener against San Diego State — suffered a season-ending injury early in the game against the Aztecs.
“He (Sankey) had a fantastic season,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. “I think, really, when you analyze Bishop’s season, especially from about almost the second half of the season on, (he was) arguably the best back in our conference. He just continued to play and play and play.”
Sankey also caught six passes for 74 yards in accounting for much of Washington’s 447 total yards — second-best for UW this year behind only the 476 it got at Colorado.
Sarkisian said the goal was to get Sankey involved as much as possible, a strategy that took advantage of the fact that Boise State had at times this year proven vulnerable against the run.
“That was about the plan, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said of Sankey’s high number of carries. The only time he had more was 34 against Utah.
What seemed to work particularly well for the Huskies were plays where Sankey could get outside and use his speed.
“The perimeter runs — those were the biggest plays,” Sankey said. “It kind of just evolved that way. Early in the game, going on the second and third quarter, we just saw that we were gashing it on the outside on the perimeter so we just kept trying to do that.”
Sankey also often seemed to hunt-and-peck early in runs, waiting for some room to develop and then plowing through.
Washington also unveiled a few “wildcat” plays where Sankey lined up as a shotgun quarterback and took a direct snap. Sankey had run many similar plays during his high-school career at Gonzaga Prep.
“He was doing a good job at finding holes in our defense,” said Boise State linebacker J.C. Percy. “He’s a great back. He showed it all year, and he was able to run hard and break tackles and use his elusive moves to get away from us.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta