BYU opened up the second quarter riding a little momentum from their gutsy fourth down conversion and immediately went back to the air despite the presence of Marcus Peters back in the game. Taysom Hill found a little rhythm and completed a few passes to generate some first downs. Before you knew it, BYU was inside UW's 20 and threatening to score. Hill's legs carried them the rest of the way as he scored on his 10th rushing TD of the season with a run that looked like Jake Locker in his hey day. Next thing you know, the game was knotted at 7.
Then ... BOOOM!
Steve Sarkisian always told us that John Ross was "this close" to breaking one and, ironically, it finally happened for Coach Tui. He fielded the ball from about five yards deep in the end zone, went straight up the right sideline, made one cut, accelerated, another cut and was gone. It was a thing of beauty. Ross joined the ubiquitous Paul Arnold as the only other Husky to ever return a kick for a 100+ yard TD. That's some great company. 14-7 Huskies.
Oh, and there was this little ditty from the mothership:
John Ross MT @SportsCenter: Elijah Qualls TO THE HOUSE! 100 yards on the kick return as Washington answers BYU score #FightHungerBowl— Ben Knibbe (@BenKnibbeSBN) December 28, 2013
The UW momentum swing didn't last for long. BYU got right back on their horse with Hill hitting some sharp passes and BYU continuing to grind out tough yards on the ground. Jamaal Williams had a Marshawn-esque effort that was nullified by a penalty, but was a run that Seattle fans can certainly appreciate. A Kikaha sack (#12 on the season) forced BYU to abandon their drive and kick their longest FG of the season. 14-10 UW.
The Huskies came out focused on trying to establish the run again. But they couldn't get it going which forced a third and long pass attempt that resulted in Keith Price getting the ball knocked out and the Huskies punting the ball back to BYU. The Cougs went right back up to work, leveraging their very big offensive players to lever the smaller UW defense and push themselves down the field. An errant throw to an open Cody Hoffman was the only thing that kept BYU out of the endzone for the second time as BYU settled for a FG attempt from 31 yards to pull within a single point.
At this point, BYU had run 27 second quarter plays to UW's three. However, the Johnny Nansen-less special teams struck again with Jesse Callier taking a kickoff steered away from Ross all they way down to the BYU 35 to set up Keith Price and the UW offense. Price went right to work with quick passes to Demore'ea Stringfellow, Jaydon Mickens, and Kevin Smith to get UW at the 10. Sankey finished off the drive for his second rushing TD of the game and UW was back up 21-13. This was a classic "quick-strike" TD drive that has become a hallmark for the 2013 Husky team.
Not to be outdone, BYU went right back to their hurry up offense - one that would produce nearly 60 first half plays - and went right back down the field. UW's D was clearly gassed as they were missing tackles and improvising on some of their assignments. It was shades of the ASU game, but a double reverse that resulted in a pass to Hill ended with him getting lit up by Tre Watson and some juice coming back to the UW sideline. The Huskies were able to force yet another FG attempt that BYU converted to end the half down 21-16.
Going into the half, it is clear that Tui has really established his sideline presence and was impressing just about everybody with his game management. He had the attention of the players, had control of the game and had struck the right balance with his assistants. He was pretty good on the half time interview, too. It was impressive. But now the real work of halftime adjustments begin. The defensive strategy of selling out to stop the run is going to have to be tweaked a little to something that mixes defenses up a little. Hill is doing enough damage to show that he is a threat with his arm and the Huskies are going to have to respect it. Offensively, it is up to Kiesau and Tui to figure out how to get Sankey going again. The Husky running game has to get going if UW is to have a shot at winning this one in the second half.
Still, the Huskies are winning a game in which the BYU offense is playing better. Special teams and third downs have been the difference - exactly what was missing against both ASU and UCLA earlier in the season.
UPDATE: Some interesting stats that I picked up on my Twitter feed for Bishop Sankey. His 38 career TD runs ties George Wilson for #1 in Washington history and his 1,824 yards season-to-date (through the second quarter) makes him the #10 all-time single season rusher in Pac 12 history. There are some serious names on that list.