Taysom Hill and the Cougars were held scoreless for the final two quarters by the Huskies' aggressive defense, and BYU had its four-game bowl winning streak snapped with a 31-16 loss in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Friday night.
"They started bringing their safeties down," Hill said. "They were playing 10 yards deep, stacking the box. What really started clicking in the second quarter for us was a little play-fake, slants over the middle. They adjusted and took that away. Unfortunately we weren't able to adjust and capitalize on a lot of opportunities that we had in the second half."
Hill threw for 293 yards and ran for 133 yards and a score for the Cougars (8-5), who settled for three field goals from Justin Sorensen to end promising drives.
Sorensen also missed a kick in the third quarter after an interception by Robertson Daniel in Huskies territory, and the Cougars allowed two long kickoff returns—including one for a touchdown.
"Taysom led our team really well," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "He played hard, he played physical. He gave us a great chance to win the game and stay in it. I told my team I was proud of them. I liked how hard they played. Our special teams needed to execute better."
Bishop Sankey ran for 95 yards and two scores to give Washington (9-4) its most wins since going 11-1 and winning the Rose Bowl in 2000.
Keith Price added a 16-yard TD pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and John Ross returned a kick 100 yards for another score as the Huskies capped a tumultuous month with a milestone win.
"I can't say enough about these guys," interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo said. "They wanted it and through some turmoil they stayed focused, they came together as a team and came here with a purpose."
The game capped a whirlwind stretch for the Huskies that began with coach Steve Sarkisian leaving for the same job at Southern California. Chris Petersen was hired away from Boise State to take over at Washington, and Tuiasosopo coached the bowl game on an interim basis. The Huskies won just their second bowl game since Tuiasosopo led them to that Rose Bowl win over Purdue 13 years ago.
"We all know what he's done here as a player," Sankey said. "It makes it that much easier when a coach leaves when you have a guy like Coach Tui."
The defense led the way for Washington, holding the Cougars to four field goal attempts and one touchdown on five drives inside the Huskies 30.
The Huskies were much more efficient on their scoring drives, with Sankey scoring on a pair of 11-yard runs in the first half to give him 38 career touchdowns, tying the school record held by George Wilson (1923-25).
Price then led a touchdown drive to open the third quarter, capping it with a well-placed throw to Seferian-Jenkins on third-and-8 to make it 28-16. Seferian-Jenkins said after the game he will leave school early to enter the NFL draft.
Price went 17 for 23 for 123 yards before leaving with an apparent rib injury in the second half.
Sankey also sat out the fourth quarter because of a hand injury, but it didn't matter. Backup quarterback Cyler Miles had a 32-yard run to set up Travis Coons' 45-yard field goal that made it 31-16 midway through the fourth.
A strong defensive effort led by Hau'oli Kikaha (three sacks) and John Timu (14 tackles, one sack and an interception) kept BYU off the scoreboard for the entire second half as the Huskies moved their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to take away short passes.
"Guys come up and load the box, we need to be able to throw the ball," Hill said. "As a quarterback that's what you want. They came down in man pressure, pushed us out of bounds and we missed a few opportunities that way. Not only that but if the protection holds up a little longer then we give guys on the outside and inside long enough to work the routes and get open."
Tuiasosopo was aggressive in his first game as head coach, going for it twice in the first quarter on fourth-and-short. Sankey converted the first but was stopped for a 9-yard loss by Kyle Van Noy on the second try.
That was one of the few times the Cougars stopped Sankey, who scored on Washington's first and last possessions of the first half to give the Huskies a 21-16 lead at the break.
The game made history by being the first ever in the FBS with two female officials. Sarah Thomas was the line judge and Maia Chaka was the head linesman based on their work in Conference USA this season.