Washington's Sankey would trade MVP for Las Vegas bowl victory

Washington sophomore running back Bishop Sankey is leaving Las Vegas with a career high in rushing yards and the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Most Valuable Player award.

He gladly would cash in those chips for a victory.

Sankey, who was not the clear-cut starter in the Huskies' backfield when the season began, gained 205 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries in the Huskies' 28-26 loss to Boise State on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. Sankey added 74 yards on six catches to become the first player in the game's history to claim the award for the losing team.

"The MVP trophy really doesn't mean as much when you come out the loser," he said.

Sankey finished second to Mike Anderson's 254 yards for Utah in 1999 on the bowl's all-time rushing list. He also ranks No. 2 in all-purpose yards to Boise State's Doug Martin, who had 301 last year.

Sankey entered the season in a battle with Jesse Callier to determine who would replace star runner Chris Polk, who left early for the NFL Draft after last season. The responsibility fell entirely on Sankey, out of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash., when Callier tore his right ACL in the season opener.

Sankey steadily improved throughout the season, earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention.

"Bishop was terrific tonight in his touches and the way he played the game," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "He had a fantastic season. I think when you analyze Bishop's season, from the second half on, he was arguably the best back in our conference. He just continued to play and play and play.

"Thoroughly impressed."

As was Boise State coach Chris Petersen, who said of Sankey: "He's a very good player. He's so strong. That's what we saw all year watching him on film. He's a very good running back, and I was worried about that going in."

Sankey eclipsed his career high of 189 yards, set in a win over California in November.

Despite rushing for 64 yards in the first quarter Saturday, Sankey believed the offense got off to a slow start. He was encouraged by the way his team rallied from an 18-3 deficit.

"It's definitely disappointing we didn't get the win, but I am proud we came out and played hard throughout the whole game," Sankey said. "We finally got things going in the second quarter, as Coach Sark said. To express my feelings right now, honestly, I'm just disappointed we came up short in the end."

Much of the Washington running game is based on taking the ball between the tackles, though Sankey said the key was getting outside against a tough Broncos defense.

"The perimeter runs were the biggest plays. Sweeps, mostly," he said. "It kind of just evolved that way. Getting into the second and third quarter, it seemed like our runs to the perimeter were working, so we kept trying to do that."

Everything seemed to be working for Sankey, who set a school record for yards rushing in a bowl game.

"He was doing a good job at finding holes in our defense," said Boise State linebacker J.C. Percy, who made 17 tackles. "He's a great back. He showed it all year."

Sankey did it all for Washington, just not enough to get the Huskies a victory.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.