SEATTLE (AP) — Getting back to a bowl game for the third straight season looked tenuous when Washington was sliding through a three-game losing streak a month ago.
Now that Washington has corrected its problems, reinvigorated a lackluster offense and won three straight games to get the all-important six victories, the Huskies know they have a postseason invitation somewhere.
The question now is where will the Huskies be going?
Their destination will be largely determined by what Washington (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) does the final two weeks against lowly Colorado and rival Washington State, who have a combined three victories. Two wins would give Washington its first 8-win season since going 8-4 in 2001.
Even with a bowl berth wrapped up, coach Steve Sarkisian is trying to avoid the postseason talk for now, trying to continue building on the last three weeks.
“We really can’t control it. It’s somewhat out of our hands. What we can control is how we play Saturday and the way we prepare for this Saturday,” Sarkisian said on Monday. “Sometimes you can get caught looking at the what it’s and the what might be and miss what is right in front of you and that’s the obvious, and the obvious is we need to go to Colorado and take what we have done the last few weeks as a football team of getting better and continue to build on that.”
Some projections have Washington headed for Las Vegas and a matchup against Boise State. While that would be appealing to fans in the Pacific Northwest, it would also seem to dampen some of the luster off the Huskies 2013 season opener against Boise State in the first game back inside renovated Husky Stadium.
Sarkisian said Monday he hasn’t given it enough thought as to whether he would like an opponent next season as Washington’s bowl matchup. It wouldn’t be a first as Washington played Nebraska three times in one year: the 2010 regular season, the 2010 Holiday Bowl and the 2011 regular season.
“You’re going to have to ask me that one in a couple of weeks,” Sarkisian said. “I haven’t put enough thought in it to answer it of a true feeling of how I feel about it honestly.”
Washington is coming off its best performance of the season in an impressive 34-15 win over Utah on Saturday night that closed out the Huskies home schedule. Playing at CenturyLink Field this season while Husky Stadium is being renovated, Washington concluded with another impressive defensive effort and the rediscovery of its offense that had struggled through the first nine games.
The Huskies became the last team from a BCS conference to score more than 21 points against an FBS opponent. Not surprisingly, the Huskies sudden offensive outburst came because quarterback Keith Price finally looked like the star he was during his sophomore season.
Price threw for a season-high 277 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another score. It was a dramatic turn from a month earlier when Price was nearly in tears after his fourth quarter mistakes helped USC pull out a 24-14 win over the Huskies in Seattle.
“I just think from a mental standpoint he is healthy. He’s back to Keith Price as I know him which is fun to be around,” Sarkisian said. “And he’s in the game, he’s picking up the defense, he’s right there on the sidelines, being a part of the game, an integral part of the game, and not just when he’s at quarterback but when we are on defense and special teams, he is exuding a tremendous amount of confidence and leadership and in the end I think our team feeds off of him.”
Helping Price is the continued emergence of Bishop Sankey, who became just the 10th different running back to top 1,000 yards in Washington’s history with 156 yards vs. Utah. Sankey, who began fall camp No. 3 on the depth chart, ranks 27th in the country with 1,011 yards through 10 games and his 13 touchdowns rushing are tied for 13th.
How healthy the Huskies are for the last two games will be in question. Their depth on the defensive line was thinned to the point that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a few plays at defensive end versus Utah. Sarkisian said defensive end Pio Vatuvei is likely out for the season and linebacker Princeton Fuimanono may not play the final two weeks. He is hopeful of cornerback Desmond Trufant being able to play against Colorado despite a nagging hamstring injury.