San Francisco • Having played against teams from non-power conferences in their last three bowl games, the BYU Cougars were thrilled when they drew the Pac-12’s Washington as their opponent in the 12th annual Fight Hunger Bowl back on Dec. 8.
From the moment they became bowl eligible, the Cougars (8-4) have said they wanted to play the best opponent available in Friday’s game at AT&T Park.
Washington in NCAA rankings
Rushing 14th 243.1
Passing 30th 271.3
Scoring 18th 38.5
Total 8th 514.3
Rushing 58th 159.8
Passing 47th 221.8
Scoring 34th 23.4
Total 49th 381.5
Fight Hunger Bowl
BYU vs. Washington
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
A little more than two weeks later, after some extensive film study, they said something else: Be careful what you wish for.
"They are really, really good," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday during a news conference at the home of the San Francisco Giants, which has been converted to a football field for Friday’s game.
Marques Tuiasosopo, UW’s interim coach for the bowl game until former Boise State coach Chris Petersen takes over next month, said the feeling is mutual.
"This is a BYU team that we have tremendous, tremendous, respect for," Tuiasosopo said.
The Cougars brought linebacker Kyle Van Noy, safety Daniel Sorensen and quarterback Taysom Hill to the news conference — showing up fashionably late because they ran into traffic for Monday night’s 49ers game making the trip across the Bay Bridge from Oakland, where they practiced Monday morning at Laney College.
The Huskies (8-4) brought quarterback Keith Price, running back Bishop Sankey and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha. All three UW players said there will be no drop-off with Tuiasosopo running the show, instead of Steve Sarkisian, the former BYU quarterback who is headed for USC.
The Cougars seem to believe that, too.
"I am not sure that we can count on any type of change," Mendenhall said. "I think we need to prepare for them like they are going to be at their best. Anything less than that will be a surprise."
And UW’s best is pretty good. All four of the Huskies’ losses came against ranked teams — Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA — and many familiar with the program say it is the best UW team in the past 10 years.
That’s especially true of the offense, which averaged 38.5 points and 514.3 yards per game, program records.
The Huskies rank eighth in the country in total offense, 14th in rushing offense (243.1 ypg.) and 18th in scoring offense.
"They are a better team than their record shows," said BYU safety Daniel Sorensen. "They have some really dynamic players, so it will be a good challenge for us. … Washington is a great opponent to play in a bowl game, and we are going to be ready."
They’d better be.
Price is the most-accomplished quarterback the Cougars will face this year (aside from Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton, who left the game in the first quarter with a season-ending knee injury) and is the type of multiple-threat athlete that has given BYU trouble in the past.
"He’s a good quarterback," Sorensen said. "He’s a dual threat. He can throw the ball downfield to receivers, and he can also scramble well. That puts a lot of pressure on us to keep him contained in the pocket, and still cover downfield."
Washington’s best players, however, are probably Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Sankey earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, and Seferian-Jenkins is a third-teamer and won the John Mackey Award, presented annually to the nation’s best tight end.
A junior from Spokane, Wash., Sankey is the No. 3 rusher in the country with 1,775 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"Hard runner," said BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "He jukes a lot of people. He breaks tackles and he runs hard. He’s fast, too. He has a combination of everything. He’s a good player."
Seferian-Jenkins caught 33 passes for 413 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s the school career record-holder for receptions, yardage and touchdowns by a tight end.
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