Elaine Thompson, AP
SEATTLE — Chris Fetters covers Washington football for Dawgman.com and knows the team as well as anyone. BYU matches up against the Huskies this Friday in the Fight Hunger Bowl in what looks to be a very competitive matchup on paper.
Washington heads into the game after an up-and-down season and without head coach Steve Sarkisian, who has moved on to coach at USC.
So what can BYU fans expect from Washington in the game and how do the teams match up? We asked Fetters five questions to gain better insight on what to expect.
1. How has Steve Sarkisian's departure affected the team? What was the general reaction from fans and players regarding the hiring of Chris Petersen?
RESPONSE — Everyone seems to be putting on a brave face, and some players have come out and said that Sarkisian's move to USC has actually motivated them even more and put a bigger chip on their shoulder to get that ninth win — the first time Washington has done that since 2000. As far as the general reaction of the hire — it seems to have been universally praised by the media and fans alike. The gist of the media narrative has been Washington got a coach with a win percentage of 89 percent and got paid for the privilege of sending a rival a coach that, from a win-loss standpoint, is only slightly above average.
From the fans' perspective, the hire was praised for being swift and decisive — the only questions being 1) Can Petersen recruit against the USCs, UCLAs, Oregons and Stanfords of the world? And 2) Can his massive win record translate to the BCS level? Obviously only time will tell.
2. Characterize Washington's season. The team started and finished strong but suffered through a tough stretch in the middle of the season. Was this season seen as a success, a failure, or somewhere in between?
RESPONSE — Somewhere in between but with the anticipation of getting to nine wins being the benchmark for 'success.' Honestly you could say the same thing about nearly every season at UW under Sarkisian — save the 2009 campaign. The last three 7-6 seasons were marked by three-game losing streaks sandwiched among wins, and that was something that Sarkisian really struggled with.
They started out promising and then either finished strong, like 2010, or wilted, like 2012. He's had both types of seasons when it comes to the mantra of 'Finish.' This season they finished well, but the blowout losses to Oregon and Arizona State really robbed Sarkisian of a lot of the credit he really deserves if this team does, in fact, win that ninth game. UW fans thought the years of the blowouts were behind them.
3. Washington has some exciting and potent players on offense. Talk about these players and what type of offense the team runs.
RESPONSE — Offensively, Washington runs basically the same type of offense they always have under Sark — a run-first attack with both spread and pro-style concepts that operates almost exclusively out of the shotgun now. The main component they've added to this year's attack is the hurry-up, no huddle angle. It's allowed quarterback Keith Price to play more and think less. Sark said they studied last year's film and saw a connection to Price's productivity going up when they sped up the offense. They did it in fits and spurts in 2012, but this season they went all out — and in the process set all-time records for scoring and total offense.
The offense revolves around running back Bishop Sankey, the runner-up to the Doak Walker Award this year. He set the UW all-time single-season rushing record this year, a record that stood for 17 years. He's got it all; speed, shiftiness, cutting ability, durability, strength, aggressiveness, pass-catching ability. Sankey is the total package.
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