Washington's 31-16 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl defeat of Brigham Young was a combination of fond farewells and strides into the program's future—particularly so at quarterback, with the symbolic torch-passing from outgoing senior Keith Price to redshirt freshman Cyler Miles.
The transition began before Friday's bowl win, as Price's battles with injuries in the regular season thrust Miles into the starting lineup. Circumstances against BYU were similar: Price suffered a rib injury in the third quarter that required an X-ray, per sideline reports.
News is that Keith Price went to locker for X-ray. So presumably, Cyler Miles will come on at QB for UW. #BYUvsUW— UW Football (@UW_Football) December 28, 2013
For a career as illustrious—and frankly, as important to re-establishing Washington football—as Price's, the ending was anti-climatic. He provided a few vintage Price moments against BYU, connecting with one of his favorite targets, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, on a touchdown pass. That came just a few snaps after he broke off a 20-yard rush to move the Huskies into Cougars territory.
Price had his hard-earned and well-deserved moment in the spotlight, helping the Huskies to their first postseason win since 2010 and the first of his career. But in the fourth quarter, the gap between two eras of Washington football was bridged.
Miles came on with the Huskies enjoying a 12-point cushion, but the outcome was hardly decided. The Huskies went three-and-out on his first possession, but his second salted away the victory.
Two plays in particular send Miles and Washington into the 2014 offseason with visions of what next season can be. First, he converted a third-down opportunity on a quick read to wide receiver Kevin Smith. Two snaps later from midfield, he broke past the line and accelerated beyond the second level, rolling off 32 yards on a rush that set up an eventual Travis Coons field goal.
The carry prompted plenty of favorable comparisons on social media, including this of a former national champion from Associated Press reporter Ralph Russo:
Cyler Miles covers serious ground with those long strong strides. Just a hint of Vince Young in those wheels.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) December 28, 2013
Asking Miles to take Washington to the heights Vince Young elevated Texas is expecting a lot. However, the redshirt freshman quarterback is taking over a much different Huskies football program than the one Price inherited three years ago.
It might be easy to overlook in a season that Washington scored its most victories since 2000 this is a program still just five years removed from going winless. When Price and the other departing, fifth-year seniors committed as recruits, they were committing to a vision.
Price was integral in turning Washington's vision into a reality. So was junior running back Bishop Sankey, who may or may not have played his final game with the Huskies.
If Friday was Sankey's final collegiate appearance, he ended his career in style, scoring a pair of touchdowns.
Because of their efforts, the underclassmen returning to kick off the Chris Petersen era do so with a solid foundation in place. John Ross is among those young Huskies. The freshman wide receiver drew comparisons to Oregon's do-everything junior De'Anthony Thomas before the season, and Friday he lived up to the billing with a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Junior defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha will be a senior leader for Washington's new era, and he set a resounding tone in San Francisco by sacking BYU quarterback Taysom Hill three times. His efforts garnered Defensive Most Valuable Player of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
But more than anyone else, Miles will take up the mantle for the next phase in Washington Huskies football. And thanks to Price and Co., the team he'll lead is in position to accomplish something special.