With a pair of eight-win teams each averaging more than 30 points per game, one thing can be counted on in tonight's Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park: There will be plenty of scoring.
At stake is Brigham Young's streak of four consecutive bowl wins as Washington attempts to break its two-bowl losing streak in the game's final appearance in San Francisco before moving to the new 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. It debuted as the San Francisco Bowl at AT&T Park in 2002.
The fact that the Huskies have even made four postseason appearances in a row is nothing short of impressive when you consider they were 0-12 in 2008 and won only five games in 2009. This year's senior class is looking to complete the turnaround.
That's a contrast to a BYU team that has a long tradition of making bowl games and a recent tradition of winning them. The team made 17 bowl games in a row from 1978-94 under coach LaVell Edwards and now, under coach Bronco Mendenhall, has postseason victories in six of the past seven seasons. Mendenhall said Washington is the toughest team the Broncos have had to face during their recent run, however.
Interim Washington coach Marques Tuiasosopo, who took over when Steve Sarkisian left for USC, said the Huskies are still looking up to the Cougars' program in more ways than one.
“All year long, we talked about how we wanted to be the fastest team in the Pac-12,” Tuiasosopo said. “So obviously Oregon comes to your mind. We worked really hard and we started studying BYU, we go, 'Man these guys are faster than them.' One-hundred-thirty plays against the University of Houston is unbelievable. They have tremendous players.”
When asked about the keys to victory in this game, both coaches talked only about slowing down the opposing offense, while each revealing a confidence in their team's ability to move the ball.
Mendenhall said the fact that Tuiasosopo is in his first game as a head coach following the departure of Sarkisian does not mean the Huskies will forget who they are.
“When you're playing in a bowl,” Mendenhall said, “especially when a team is 8-4 and has one of their best records in recent history, I think it would be a mistake to think they might be or do something out of character, because it's already working, what they've done.”
The edge in on-the-field leadership would seem to go to Washington quarterback Keith Price, a third-year starter with a passer rating of 154.8, thanks in part to 2,843 yards, 20 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.
Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill played in just eight games last year — starting twice — before a knee injury ended his year. The sophomore, who has started all 12 games this season, leads the team in rushing with 1,211 yards and has thrown for 2,645 yards with 19 TDs.