SEATTLE — With a juke and a spin move, Bishop Sankey wove through the Huskies revelers on the field and headed up the tunnel toward the Washington locker room.
As he passed, fans did not cheer the team’s 27-17 Apple Cup win over Washington State; they did not praise the 200 rushing yards that gave him the UW single-season rushing record (1,775 yards).
They used his proximity as an opportunity to plead for an encore.
“One more year,” was the chant. “One more year … one more year.”
Sankey has another year of eligibility, but as one the nation’s leading collegiate rushers, he might also make a nice living next year carrying the ball in the National Football League.
It is no wonder Huskies fans want more from Sankey.
“He’s an absolute stud, and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
In more than a century of Washington football, no back has rushed for more yards than Sankey has this season. Not Hugh “The King” McElhenny, Napoleon Kaufman, Greg Lewis, Chris Polk.
And not Corey Dillon.
Dillon set the record of 1,695 yards in 1996, his lone season at UW, before heading off to the NFL.
We may point out that Sankey also has 10 more receptions (25) than Dillon had that season, and he’s also had to do more of it on his own.
Dillon’s offensive line that season included future NFL players Olin Kreutz and Benji Olson. Sankey’s line has been more effective this season, but it’s not considered to be heavy with high draft picks.
And by earning second-team Pacific-12 Conference All-Academic honors, it’s obvious that Sankey also spends time in class rooms, which, according to Husky lore, was not a common diversion for Dillon in his short stay on Montlake.
Let’s go one further, without Bishop Sankey, the Huskies stood a good chance of losing this one.
Quarterback Keith Price, who had been out a game and a half with a shoulder injury, was out of sync, and didn’t appear back to full health in the first half. He lost a fumble and threw an interception.
And at half, the Cougars were ahead 10-3.
Now, recall that the Huskies were also heavily favored last season and were upset in the Apple Cup. And also recall how that loss last season led the Huskies to their third consecutive 7-6 record.
At 7-4 already, and trailing at half, the scenario was distressingly familiar for the Huskies faithful, who might have been conducting searches on their smart phones to see if Sarkisian is the Armenian word for “seven wins.”
But in the third quarter, Sankey came out with 12 rushes and a reception for a total of 130 yards – more than doubling the Cougars’ output that period.
The outburst took the Huskies to a 20-10 lead.
“We just knew we had to put the first half behind us and come out on fire in the second half,” Sankey said.
Sankey said he hadn’t thought of the rushing record as a goal. “I was really just trying to take it week by week, trying to be productive,” he said. “That’s my job, to go out there and be productive and put our team in position to win.”
Well, he did that very thing on Friday. Sankey very much.
“He’s a great kid,” Sarkisian said. “He comes to work every single day and it’s not about the flash … he’s never gonna stand up and boast about himself.”
But will he be coming to work every day at UW or perhaps, say, Phoenix, where Bishop would be promoted to a Cardinal?
Sarkisian said he would sit down and talk to Sankey, to “educate” him on the process of possibly declaring himself for the NFL draft rather than returning to UW.
“I can’t tell you right now,” Sankey said when asked if he’d be back at UW next season. “I’m going to have to see what’s the best decision for me, and talk it over with my family … we’ll see.”
Stay or go, Sankey has earned his place in the record books, and in the memories of more than 70,000 fans at Husky Stadium who watched him turn this game into a UW victory.