New offensive system. New quarterback. New opponents. Same result.
The Cougars are going bowling for the ninth straight season after an 8–4 record featuring one of the most prolific offenses in the country, run by one of the most exciting quarterbacks to receive snaps this season in Taysom Hill, who became just the 22nd player in college football history to throw for 2,000 and rush for 1,000 in the same season.
BYU accepted an invitation to the Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco, to be played on Dec. 27 against Washington of the Pac-12 conference. Gary Cavalli, executive director of the bowl, said when BYU went independent for the 2011 season, he was eager to get the Cougars to the bowl.
“About three years ago when BYU went independent, I was on the phone with (Holmoe) within a couple of minutes,” Cavalli said. “We have a long relationship. When we started the bowl game, we had a relationship with the Mountain West. We always wanted BYU, but they were either too good for us or not quite good enough.”
The prestige of the BYU program and the Hall of Fame names it has produced, including hometown hero Steve Young, who won a Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, also appealed to Cavalli and the other bowl executives.
“(BYU) brings a great fan base. Their fans are very loyal. They travel well,” Cavalli said. “It’s a legendary program that has won a national championship, produced a number of outstanding quarterbacks of household names, including one in this Bay Area in Mr. Young. They stand for their church, for character, for integrity. That’s always important for us as well.”
The Pac-12 Conference has enjoyed a superb year, with nine of the 12 teams qualifying for postseason action. Washington sports an 8–4 record on the season, while former Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian is familiar with BYU, as he quarterbacked the Cougars in the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Sarkisian recently accepted the vacant head coaching job at USC and will not coach in the bowl game, as duties will fall to quarterback coach and one-time Husky quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. Cavalli said the game should be even and competitive.
“You never want to mismatch,” he said. “You look for a competitive matchup. BYU’s style of play and the offense they have, with a very consistent defense, will be competitive against the Pac-12. On the other side, you want a team that’s exciting to watch. Fans want to come see some points.”
AT&T Park is normally the home of the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball. The grounds crew began the process of converting the baseball diamond into a football field on Dec. 2. The stadium holds 41,915, fewer seats than a normal football stadium, but it should be well attended thanks to the location relative to both teams and the renowned location of BYU fans.
Cavalli said the matchup between BYU and Washington would be entertaining and high-scoring as both teams have exciting offensive players.
“Washington would be a great opponent. Washington’s got maybe the best running back in the country in Bishop Sankey,” Cavalli said. “And BYU’s got (Taysom) Hill, (Jamaal) Williams and (Cody) Hoffman. They’re really fun to watch. I think we’ll have a really good matchup.”
The game will kick off Dec. 27 at 7:30 p.m. MDT and will be televised on an ESPN network.