SAN FRANCISCO -- Even with its two offensive stars on the sidelines with injuries in the fourth quarter, the Washington Huskies were able to get their ninth victory of the season with a 31-16 victory over the Brigham Young University Cougars in the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on Friday night.
Huskies quarterback Keith Price sat out the fourth quarter with a rib injury, and running back Bishop Sankey was sidelined for the final period with a hand problem. But Washington's defense shut out BYU (8-5) in the second half, helping the Huskies to finish the season with a 9-4 record.
The last time the Huskies won as many games in a season was 2000, when Marques Tuiasosopo was their quarterback and was named MVP of a Rose Bowl victory that completed an 11-1 season.
On Friday, Tuiasosopo was the Huskies interim coach, filling the gap between the departure of Steve Sarkisian to USC and the arrival of Chris Petersen as the next Washington head coach.
"Through the turmoil, they stayed focused," Tuiasosopo said. "I'm really proud of the guys. I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity that I had."
A 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Washington freshman John Ross III in the second quarter and a 47-yard kickoff return by Jesse Callier that led to another Washington touchdown in the same period provided much of the offense for Washington, which was outgained by BYU 473-319.
"The game was summarized in my opinion by the kickoff-coverage team," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "The difference was their kick-return team."
BYU's inability to take full advantage of its first-half scoring opportunities also aided the Huskies' cause.
Sankey, who ranked third nationally in rushing entering the game, ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns. But he did not play after hurting his hand late in the third quarter.
"One of the linemen fell on my hand," Sankey said. "And after that I couldn't really hold the ball, squeeze it."
Price completed 17-of-22 passes for 123 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He left the field early in the fourth quarter to be X-rayed for a rib injury.
"I thought I would be able to play through it," Price said. "We went in, and I numbed it up, but I could still feel it."
Asked whether he broke his rib, Price smiled and said, "I'm not sure."
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill rushed for 133 yards on 31 carries and passed for 293 yards on 25-of-48 attempts.
"There were a couple of moments where I was holding my breath, thinking, 'Can we please tackle their quarterback?'"
Cougars wide receiver Cody Hoffman had 12 receptions for 167 yards. He had to leave the game in the final minute of the second quarter after taking a hard hit while attempting a pass. But he returned in the second half.
Despite those numbers by Hill and Hoffman, the Cougars could not manage a single point in the second half.
The Huskies increased a 21-16 halftime lead to 28-16 on Price's 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on Washington's first possession of the third quarter.
Washington kicker Travis Coons added a 45-yard field goal to make it 31-16 with 7:53 left in the game. The Huskies defense did the rest.
"We had success with the slant over the middle in the first half," Hill said. "They adjusted and took that away in the second half."
In the first half, BYU outgained Washington 297-145, but two long kickoff returns helped the Huskies take a 21-16 lead at intermission.
Washington scored on its first possession as Sankey's 11-yard touchdown run ended a 12-play, 71-yard drive that made it 7-0.
After BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy tackled Sankey for a 9-yard loss on a fourth-and-2 play from the BYU 3-yard line, BYU marched 88 yards in 12 plays for tying score.
Washington regained the lead seconds later when Ross returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown that put the Huskies ahead 14-7.
A 45-yard field goal by BYU's Justin Sorensen reduced the Huskies' lead to 14-10, and Sorensen then made it 14-13 by kicking a 31-yard field goal with 3:46 remaining in the half.