NCF Nation: hunger bowl 2013

A couple of up-tempo teams squared off in the Fight Hunger Bowl. But it was a big special teams play that propelled the Washington Huskies (9-4) to a 31-16 win over BYU (8-5). Here’s how it all went down Friday in San Francisco:

It was over when: Holding a 31-16 lead late in the fourth, Washington’s John Timu picked off BYU quarterback Taysom Hill with 2:28 left to play. It was BYU’s only turnover of the game and squashed the possibility of any late-game heroics. The Huskies ran down the clock, making BYU's final offensive drive moot.

Game ball goes to: Though he missed the fourth quarter, Washington running back Bishop Sankey turned in his usual workmanlike performance, rushing for 95 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns on the ground.

Unsung hero: Washington’s special teams -- particularly kick return -- were a huge difference early in the game. John Ross returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to give Washington a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Then Jesse Callier had a 47-yard return that set up Sankey’s second score of the game. In his only field goal attempt of the game, Travis Coons hit a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game: The Cougars outgained the Huskies in total offense, 473 yards to 316, but struggled in the red zone, settling for field goals in lieu of touchdowns. They also held a time of possession advantage of more than four minutes, but Washington’s special teams touchdown and long return contributed to shorter drives for the Huskies.

What it means for Washington: The Huskies pick up their ninth win for the first time since 2000 and head into the Chris Petersen era with a little bit of momentum. There are a lot of questions lingering -- such as the makeup the Petersen’s new staff (pretty good audition for Marques Tuiasosopo), which players are staying or going, etc. But for a team that came into the year with fairly high hopes, the Huskies proved they deserve a spot in the final top 25 rankings.

What it means for BYU: The loss snaps BYU’s streak of four straight bowl wins and brings an end to a very difficult schedule. Eight wins is nothing to scoff at, and their 2013 resume includes victories over Texas, Georgia Tech and Boise State. Hill is a player, and with him at the helm the Cougars offense will be dangerous again next year against an easier schedule.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Fight Hunger bowl, click here.

Fight Hunger Bowl preview

December, 27, 2013
Washington (8-4) and BYU (8-4) square off Friday night in the Fight Hunger Bowl at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: For Washington, it starts with running back Bishop Sankey, a Doak Walker finalist and one of the most consistent and powerful backs in the country. He ranks second in the country in rushing yards (1,775), fourth in rushing touchdowns (18) and averages 147.8 yards on the ground per game. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is the first player in school history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in the same season. His completion percentage isn't great -- just 54.1 percent, and he has thrown 13 interceptions to go with 19 touchdowns. But what he lacks in accuracy, he makes up for in scary athleticism.

What to watch: Both teams run an up-tempo style of offense that will put a lot of strain on the opposing team's defense. Well-known nationally is hybrid defensive end/OLB Kyle Van Noy, who pretty much single-handedly won the Poinsettia Bowl last year for the Cougars. Washington's offensive line has been steady and consistent, but keeping Van Noy out of the backfield poses as big a challenge as any pass rusher the Huskies have seen this season. How the Huskies protect quarterback Keith Price and open up holes for Sankey will be the matchup to watch.

Why to watch: Much like USC and Boise State, who already have played their bowl games, Washington is a team going through a coaching transition. That always adds intrigue and drama to the postseason, because motivation comes into question. But with Chris Petersen's hire at Washington, the Huskies don't seem to be as unstable as Boise State was in its loss to Oregon State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. BYU has a knack for playing well in the postseason, winning six of its past seven bowl games and four in a row. Their stability provides a stark contrast to the in-transition Huskies, making for some interesting sidebar discussions in this one.

Predictions: Kevin Gemmell picked Washington to win, 38-27. Ted Miller picked BYU to win, 30-24.

Fight Hunger Bowl

December, 8, 2013
[+] EnlargeKyle Van Noy
George Frey/Getty ImagesKyle Van Noy leads the BYU defense.

BYU Cougars (8-4) vs. Washington Huskies (8-4)

Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET, San Francisco (ESPN)

After a year of playing all over the country, from Virginia to Houston to Wisconsin to Notre Dame, why not make one more trip? The Cougars finished their third season as an FBS independent with a win over Nevada last week and immediately accepted a bid to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

The Cougars won eight games, six against teams going to bowl games, thanks to a top-25-scoring defense and a potent run game led by quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams, who each surpassed 1,200 rushing yards and combined for 16 touchdowns.

BYU has won its past four bowl games and is bowling in California for a second consecutive season after knocking off San Diego State 23-6 in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl last year. -- Max Olson


The news that coach Steve Sarkisian was headed to USC was quickly trumped by the hiring of Boise State’s Chris Petersen -- though it will be quarterbacks coach and former UW QB Marques Tuiasosopo who leads the Huskies into the bowl season.

[+] EnlargeBishop Sankey
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonBishop Sankey had 134 carries in Washington's final five games and topped 100 yards in four of them.
Led by Doak Walker Award finalist Bishop Sankey, the Huskies finally got over the seven-win hump that had been plaguing them of late. Sankey became a national name for his performance in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State. He has exceeded the hype this year and has been a workhorse back. Sankey has proven to be one of the most complete skill players in the country with 1,775 yards (5.8 per carry) and 18 touchdowns on 306 carries. He also has snagged 25 balls for 298 yards and a score.

Quarterback Keith Price has looked more like his 2011 self -- mostly because of stability along the offensive line, which has helped the Huskies average 38.5 points per game.

After a midseason skid that saw three straight losses (at Stanford, vs. Oregon and at Arizona State), the Huskies closed the year by winning four of their last five.

Washington’s defense, particularly the secondary, has continued to flourish. At question, however, is who will be calling the defense for the bowl game. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is rumored to be a candidate for the Boise State job, though he also could end up at USC with Sarkisian. Petersen is bringing Pete Kwiatkowski with him from Boise State, so Wilcox and the Washington defense remains in limbo. -- Kevin Gemmell