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December 27, 2013
Huskies look to reach nine wins
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Marques Tuiasosopo is looking to get Washington back to a level it hasn't reached since he was the star quarterback more than a decade ago.
Tuiasosopo leads the Huskies into the Fight Hunger Bowl against BYU on Friday night as interim coach after a whirlwind month that started with coach Steve Sarkisian leaving for Southern California and Chris Petersen being hired away from Boise State.
Tuiasosopo moved up from quarterbacks coach to interim coach to lead the Huskies (8-4) in their bowl preparation against BYU (8-4). Washington is trying to win nine games in a season for the first time since going 11-1 - capped by a Rose Bowl win over Purdue in January 2001 with Tuiasosopo at quarterback.
"It's been an awesome opportunity," he said. "It's been a great experience. It's something new every day. I have a big notebook of notes. It's a tremendous honor to be at my alma mater in this role. It's priceless."
It's been a rough stretch at Washington since Tuiasosopo left for the NFL, bottoming out with a winless season in 2008. Sarkisian came in and started a rebuilding process that has led to four straight bowl trips. But the Huskies had not won more than seven games in a season under Sarkisian until this season.
Now they are hoping to use a bowl win to provide momentum for a new era that will begin after this game when Petersen officially takes over the program.
"It would mean a lot," star running back Bishop Sankey said. "The past few years we had winning seasons but struggled to get over that seven-win hump. Now that we are over it, I think the nine wins would do justice for this program and get us some more attention."
Here are five things to watch when BYU takes on Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl:
KYLE THE QB KILLER: BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy had another stellar season with 16 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. But he will have a tough time topping last year's bowl performance against San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. He had 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one blocked kick, returned an interception for one touchdown and recovered a fumble for another. That performance gave him some well-deserved notoriety that carried over into this season.
"I don't think many people know who our school was or I was," he said. "It was a chance to prove to people that we can play."
BIG-PLAY BISHOP: Huskies running back Bishop Sankey was one of the best in the country this season, leading the Pac-12 and ranking third in the nation with 1,775 yards rushing. He doesn't get as much attention as some other backs like Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Boston College's Andre Williams but has not gone unnoticed by the Cougars defense.
"He's an excellent football player," Van Noy said. "He's fast, he's quick-twitched and he can get the ball in the end zone. You like that in a running back. I expect him to be a handful."
HILL'S A HANDFUL: BYU is led by a quarterback in Taysom Hill that is putting up prolific numbers like the ones Tuiasosopo did as a player. Hill ran for 1,211 yards and threw for 2,645, becoming the first BYU player and 23rd ever to reach 1,000 yards rushing and 2,000 passing in the same season. Tuiasosopo called him a "dynamic" dual-threat player but Hill says he'd rather be known for his arm than his legs.
"I love to throw the football," Hill said. "If you'd ask me if I want to throw or run for a touchdown, I'd say throw. That's still my tendency."
PROFICIENT PRICE: One of the biggest reasons for Washington's improved success this season was better decision making from quarterback Keith Price. After throwing 24 interceptions the previous two years, Price had only five this season when his ratio of 20 touchdown passes to interceptions was the best in school history.
"Sometimes your desire to do something great is also the same thing that hurts you," Tuiasosopo said. "He was fantastic all year."
FEMALE FIRST: Normally the goal of the officials is to go unnoticed but that might be tough with a crew that will make history. The bowl will be the first FBS game ever to have two females on the officiating crew. Sarah Thomas will be the line judge and Maia Chaka will be the head linesman based on their work in Conference USA this season. Thomas was the first woman to work a bowl game at the 2009 Little Caesars Bowl. This is Chaka's first bowl assignment.