After a rough midseason patch, the victories were beginning to come for Washington.
The Huskies beat then-No. 7 Oregon State, California, Utah and Colorado, each win more convincing than the previous.
They were on the way to their fifth straight win only to squander an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and lose 31-28 in overtime at rival Washington State.
It was a stunning defeat, casting a pall on what had been a promising end to the football season. Instead of being bowl bound at 8-4 with victories over two top-10 teams, the Huskies take a 7-5 record into the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
That disappointment puts extra importance on beating No. 20 Boise State (10-2) when the teams meet at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“This would be great for us to cap off our season, to get our eighth win against a very good Boise State team, an eighth win for the first time in the four years we’ve been here,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Wednesday. “To finish off this season on a high note, to finish off these seniors’ careers on a high note, and to really kick-start us into 2013, which we think has a chance to be a special season with the amount of returners coming back for us.”
This is the Huskies’ third bowl appearance in a row, a long way from when they went 0-12 in 2008.
“Coach Sark and his staff have done an amazing job here of resurrecting the program and getting it in the right direction,” sophomore tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “It’s always a big deal to make it to a bowl game and consecutively.”
Many Washington fans, though, hoped to see greater improvement and don’t like the annual beatdown by Oregon. This season, it was a 52-21 clobbering.
That loss began a three-game skid that ended when Washington registered a 20-17 victory over Oregon State. It was a win that propelled the Huskies to a four-game winning streak.
Then they met Washington State under first-year coach Mike Leach. Washington led 28-10 in the fourth quarter, and all seemed well for the Huskies.
All was not well.
“We just had a meltdown there in the fourth quarter,” Sarkisian said. “The one thing for us and for our kids, one quarter or one game is not going to define our season, whether it be a loss or a win. It’s the overall body of work.”
Perhaps, but that fourth quarter and overtime became a difficult memory to shake.
Of the Huskies’ school-record-tying 18 penalties, six were 15-yard infractions on two Washington State touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.
Still, Washington would have won the game had Travis Coons made a 35-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. And Washington might still have won if junior quarterback Keith Price hadn’t thrown an interception on the first play of overtime.
“The way that we went out wasn’t the way we expected to go out,” Price said. “I thought we played a good game all the way until the final minutes. That’s one of our mottoes, finishing ballgames, and we weren’t able to do that. Luckily, we have another chance to finish.”
Maybe a victory over Boise State would soothe the pain.
“We know we let one go,” senior cornerback Desmond Trufant said. “We had a great opportunity to finish the season on a five-game winning streak, but we let that slip away. So this game is another opportunity we’ve got to take advantage.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.