Huskies make 2013 eventful

Staff writerDecember 29, 2013 

Redshirt freshman Cyler Miles, who started against Oregon State this season, is among the candidates to replace Keith Price as starting quarterback for the Washington Huskies.

ED SZCZEPANSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS

They won more games than any Washington Huskies football team in the past 13 years.

They also lost their coach (Steve Sarkisian), hired a new one (Chris Petersen) and won a bowl game with an interim coach who used to be their quarterback (Marques Tuiasosopo).

It was an eventful 2013 season for the Huskies, who ended it with a 31-16 victory over Brigham Young in Friday night’s Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.

At 9-4, this is the winningest Huskies team since the 2000 squad that won the Rose Bowl and finished 11-1.

With a long, eventful season finally in the books, it’s time to look back at the highlights and lowlights, and at what might lie ahead.

HIGH POINT

UW played four opponents that finished the regular season ranked in the top 25.

The Huskies lost to each of them.

So Friday night’s win over BYU probably felt better than any of UW’s previous eight victories, if only because of the events of the weeks that preceded it. There’s also the fact that it got them to nine wins and came against a team that also entered the game with an 8-4 record.

A close second: Washington’s 69-27 thrashing of Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., the week before the Apple Cup, a game the Huskies absolutely had to win to salvage their goal of winning more than seven regular-season games.

A distant third: Beating Petersen-coached Boise State, 38-6, in the first game at renovated Husky Stadium.

LOW POINT

This one is pretty obvious. UW’s 53-24 beatdown at Arizona State on Oct. 19 was by far the Huskies’ worst game this season, as they more or less didn’t show up a week after a tough home loss to Oregon.

The loss to ASU put into serious question whether UW truly was ready to take the next step under Sarkisian.

Tied for second: A heartbreaking 31-28 loss at Stanford on Oct. 5 that came down to the final seconds, and the discouraging 45-24 defeat against Oregon on Oct. 12, UW’s 10th consecutive loss to the Ducks.

OFFENSIVE MVP

No doubt about this one. Bishop Sankey’s 1,870 yards rushing set a single-season UW record. That seems like a number that could last even longer than the previous record, set by Corey Dillon in 1996.

Sankey said Friday night that he hasn’t decided yet whether to return to UW for his senior season.

That seems unlikely after the kind of career he put together in three seasons with the Huskies. It wasn’t just Sankey’s numbers, but his durability and consistency that made him UW’s most valuable player.

Also considered: Fifth-year senior quarterback Keith Price, who played hurt most of the season but finished with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions.

DEFENSIVE MVP

He would probably also be the top candidate if we were to name a comeback player of the year. Defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha finished the season with 13 sacks after missing most of the previous two seasons because of anterior cruciate ligament tears.

Kikaha, the Huskies’ best and most consistent pass rusher all season, set the stage for what could be a pretty big fifth-year senior season in 2014.

Also considered: Junior Danny Shelton, whose presence in the middle of the defensive line shouldn’t be understated. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Peters developed into one of the Pac-12 Conference’s best cornerbacks and finished the season with five interceptions. Sophomore Shaq Thompson remained a game-changer at times, too.

BEST NEWCOMER

John Ross’ offensive impact probably wasn’t as great as UW anticipated — 16 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown — but he showed flashes of brilliance in his freshman season, culminating with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

That by itself was an indication that bigger things should be expected from the speedster.

WHO THEY’LL MISS

Price is the most glaring departure. Cyler Miles, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams will compete for the right to replace him at quarterback.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins is leaving for the NFL draft, and despite his decrease in pass-catching production during his junior season, UW’s offense will miss having a tight end that big, strong and skilled blocking for its running game.

Assuming Sankey ends up declaring for the draft, he’s obviously a big loss, too. Senior receiver Kevin Smith had a solid year.

The secondary will take a hit, with cornerback Greg Ducre and safeties Sean Parker and Will Shamburger — three-fourths of UW’s starting defensive backfield — all graduating. Cornerback Tre Watson is moving on, too, as is linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, who led the team in tackles this season.

The Huskies will also miss Travis Coons, who punted, kicked PATs and field goals, and also handled kickoffs for most of the season. Finding a suitable replacement will be among UW’s offseason priorities.

WHO’S COMING BACK

The entire offensive line, plus receivers Kasen Williams, Damore’ea Stringfellow, Jaydon Mickens, Ross and Marvin Hall, are returning.

At running back, Dwayne Washington will be a sophomore, Jesse Callier a senior and Deontae Cooper a fifth-year senior.

The bulk of a pretty strong linebackers group will be back — Thompson, John Timu and Travis Feeney — as will Shelton, Kikaha, Cory Littleton, Evan Hudson and Josh Shirley, all starters or contributors on the defensive line this season. Peters is the only key defensive back returning.

christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @ChristianCaple

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