SAN FRANCISCO – The Washington Huskies no longer Bark for Sark. The temporary new theme, it seems, is to act screwy for Tui.
A turbulent three weeks in the wake of Steve Sarkisian’s departure segued into a wild and crazy night of trick plays (for better or worse), untimely injuries, explosive kickoff returns, and, ultimately, a 31-16 victory over Brigham Young in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park.
It was only fitting that the Huskies squeezed out a few last dollops of turmoil before the kickoff on Friday.
A report leaked out early in the day that defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would be USC-bound after the game. And then came the announcement that fifth-year senior safety Will Shamburger had been sent home for a violation of team rules. Starting cornerback Marcus Peters was benched a quarter for academic reasons.
Hey, what’s another few distractions for a team that has been bombarded by them? Playing on the same field where Huskies grad Tim Lincecum paved the way to two Cy Young Awards and two World Series titles, the Huskies answered the million-dollar question: How would they react to all the adversity that has spun their way?
Not aversely, as it turned out, though the game itself presented another crowded menu of challenges. For instance, the Huskies faced a fourth quarter without their quarterback Keith Price (rib injury) and leading rusher Bishop Sankey (apparent hand injury).
And still they prevailed in a gutty, giddy performance that cemented a nine-win season and showed the resiliency of young minds.
Most of the heavy-duty questions still remain, of course. Like, for instance, what will happen to interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who must now weigh a reported offer to be tight ends coach on the staff of Chris Petersen. (Remember him? He can come out of the shadows now.)
No matter what he decides, Tuiasosopo can boast a 1.000 winning percentage as head coach, matching that of former Huskies legend Gil Dobie. Of course, Dobie was perfect (58-0-3) for nine seasons, from 1908-1916. Baby steps. Tuiasosopo only enhanced his resume by the way he kept the Huskies together during his tenure.
Other coaches, in limbo since Sarkisian left, will soon get some clarity on their futures. And so, too, will juniors Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, each faced with the choice of jumping to the NFL or returning for his senior season.
If Friday turned out to be their last game, each left his calling card. Sankey ran for two TDs in the first half, while ASJ hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Price to start Washington’s second-half scoring.
Providing a tantalizing glimpse of what might lie ahead, freshman John Ross had a 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter that was a thing of beauty.
Price ended his outstanding Huskies career in winning, though painful, fashion. He threw a bad interception in the third quarter. To be fair, Price absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit on the play that should have warranted a flag to negate the interception.
BYU wound up missing a field-goal attempt, but Price exited shortly from a rib injury he had suffered earlier in the game. Cyler Miles took it the rest of the way, leading a drive to a field goal as the Huskies defense, a bit sketchy in the tackling department in the first half, pitched a shutout after intermission.
Nothing screwy about that.