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Fight Hunger Bowl recap: Washington thrashes BYU to give Cougars a moral victory

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When Washington Huskies player John Ross fielded a kickoff with the Fight Hunger Bowl deadlocked at 7-7 in the second quarter Friday December 27 in San Francisco, he pointed his staff out like he was Moses. The Red Sea, uh, the hapless BYU Cougars parted as Ross sailed away for a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to give Washington an insurmountable 14-7 lead. Later, Huskies players huddled behind a cooler filled with blue Gatorade with over five minutes left to play having won 31-16 at the Fight Hunger Bowl -- even with BYU in possession of the ball at midfield, threatening to score.

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Why such overconfidence? Well, BYU was over-matched and out-manned and no matter what Cougars sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill did -- which was alot -- he simply couldn't do enough. The quote BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall gave to reporters about his team being happy having eight wins became prophetic, for the Cougars had become 8-5. Three minutes after Hill's final drive resulted in zero points in the final game for 21 seniors, it was the Huskies who were champions, giving some Cougars the moral victory they sought all along -- when athletic director Tom Holmoe got his official bowl invite with six weeks left in the season.

You see, BYU may have fed the hungry in San Francisco on this bowl trip but they didn't need to give the game to Washington, who acted like not only Huskies, but wild dawgs suffering from neglect after their former coach/ex- BYU quarterback left them for USC. No matter, the rabid but still-fragile Huskies kind of ripped apart the Cougars defense for 319 yards -- far fewer than BYU's 473.

Look at the game itself and you wonder how the Cougars lost after having 150 more yards on offense. But Washington -- like Utah, Wisconsin and Notre Dame before them -- knew its game plan was running back for the appetizer, main course and dessert. Even when the Cougars were full from running back and Bishop Sankey excused himself due to a nagging injury, another running back took Bishop's place at the dinner table and Washington kept gnawing away, little by little, until the proud BYU defense was a litter of carcasses on the AT&T Park field, losing by the lopsided score of 21-16 at the half.

In this stanza alone Sankey jump-cut juked BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy and his teammates out of their jocks, and would zip past and dump truck over the tired Cougars defense for 50 yards in that quarter alone, and he would have 96 yards for the game and two rushing touchdowns on the day -- both coming in that second quarter.

The 96 came as a surprise for Sankey, who came into the game averaging 143. But, to the Cougars defense's credit they gave themselves enough chances to claw back into this one -- it's just that the BYU offense wouldn't cooperate.

The Cougar offense did the same thing they have done all season. They got down in the red zone and settled for field goals instead of touchdowns when it counted most. Three times alone in the second quarter, in fact, after BYU quarterback Taysom Hill scrambled on his one surgically good leg for 77 yards and gave the Cougars offense 243 yards total. (Hill finished with 133 yards rushing and 293 yards passing.)

The game wasn't even close after that second quarter Cougar outburst. It seemed over before the second half even started thanks to Holmoe and his staff who orchestrated possibly the biggest mismatch since BYU tried to outmuscle Wisconsin in Madison's gargantuan Camp Randall Stadium in front of 80,000 people.

Chop that number in half tonight, throw BYU and Washington into a baseball diamond converted into a football pitch and you still had one team running roughshod over the other. That said, BYU still had its chances to stay in the game.

Consider the third quarter, when Washington scored 10 points, giving BYU several opportunities to get the ball back after the Cougars had been so charitable. But when the Cougars did get the ball back, they couldn't move it down the field. Running back Jamaal Williams' third quarter went like this: loss of four yards on one carry and a gain of five on another.

Hill did his absolute best to get BYU yardage in the third, running four times for 35 yards -- but he was also sacked twice. He did complete five passes during the quarter, but BYU did not get beyond midfield and the Fight Hunger Logo painted on the 50, amassing a total of just 54 yards -- 30 of that erased by penalties.

So when the fourth quarter came, and the Huskies held a 28-16 lead it's not like Hill didn't fight. He would, and he did, all game. He ran to get his team back in the game, he ran to avoid pressure from the Huskies front seven, and ran when he didn't need to -- and couldn't have passed more if he tried -- but the result was the same: punt, punt, and punt. Washington tacked on a field goal from Travis Coons to balloon the lead to 31-16.

Then with about three minutes left to play in the game, Hill looked over the middle for his receiver and found Washington linebacker John Timu instead. Then the Huskies on the sideline revealed the blue Gatorade bucket they had been hiding since midway through the fourth quarter and carried it towards interim head coach Marques Tuiasosopo, dumping it on his head in celebration.

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