LAS VEGAS >> After last-minute losses in Washington’s last two games, coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t have to look far to find out what ails the Huskies.
Not being able to finish off a game tops the list.
Washington had another lead late, but was unable to hold it Saturday, falling 28-26 to No. 20 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on a 27-yard field goal by Michael Frisina with 1:16 left. Combined with a regular-season ending loss to rival Washington State, it was a disappointing end to what had been a promising season for Washington.
“Our inability to finish is pretty blaring,” Sarkisian said. “Obviously, it will be a point of emphasis for us on the offseason.”
Washington (7-6) had taken the lead for the first time on a 38-yard field goal by Travis Coons with 4:09 left when Boise State (11-2) got a big kickoff return by freshman Shane Williams-Rhodes to the Washington 42. Joe Southwick guided the team to the 12 before Frisina hit the winning kick.
It was the kind of game Sarkisian envisioned, just not the kind of ending he liked.
“We knew that it would come down to the last possession or two of the game,” he said. “To their credit, they found a way to win the ball game in the end.”
To do that, the Broncos had to overcome a huge game by Bishop Sankey, who started fall practice No. 3 on the depth chart before developing into an offensive star.
Sankey rushed for 205 yards against the normally stingy Boise State defense. Sankey also had 74 yards receiving, giving him 279 of Washington’s 447 yards from scrimmage.
Despite being on the losing team, he was the game’s MVP.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions going on,” said Sankey, who rushed 30 times, caught six passes and scored a touchdown. “The MVP doesn’t mean so much when you come out a loser.”
Washington will play Boise State again in its next game when the Huskies open their renovated stadium in August against the Broncos.
It was the third straight Las Vegas Bowl win for Boise State, but the Broncos had to work hard for this one after blowouts in the other two. The win wasn’t sealed until the 5-foot-5 Frisina hit the game winner. It left them feeling good about a game and a season when, unlike the last two years, there was hardly any talk about Boise State being in a BCS game.
“The most satisfying thing about this season was each week you’d see us get just a little bit better,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “These guys, they don’t go through the motions. They have a chip on their shoulder.”
But it was Frisina who came up with the biggest game of his career in his final game. He kicked three field goals, including the first game winner he could ever recall booting.
“It’s every kicker’s dream to win a big game with a field goal,” Frisina said. “For this one to come on the last game of my career, you couldn’t ask for anything more.’
“I was just focused on what I had to do,” Frisina said. “I’m there as the insurance guy, I guess you’d say.”
Boise State sealed the win when Jeremy Ioane intercepted Keith Price’s pass as the Huskies neared midfield.
Southwick had another efficient game, completing 26 of 38 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns for a Boise State team that struggled offensively through much of the season before improving over its last three games.
“All year I knew I could play at this level,” he said. “It’s just a lot of work, a lot of moving parts to put the puzzle together. The last three games it’s really showed. We’ve just been executing at a high level in the offense.”
Southwick, a junior who took over from the departing Kellen Moore, also ran for 39 yards and had a punt that pinned Washington by its goal line in the fourth quarter.
Boise State, which outscored Utah and Arizona State 82-24 in its two previous Las Vegas Bowl wins, looked headed for a third straight blowout when Holden Huff scored on a 34-yard pass with 5:25 left in the second quarter for an 18-3 lead. But Sankey scored on a 26-yard run on Washington’s next possession, and Price scrambled for another score with 3 seconds left to make it 18-17 at halftime.
The teams traded long drives in the third quarter, with Boise going 74 yards in 15 plays to open the second half, and Washington responding with a 75 yard, 12 play drive. The Huskies went for a 2-point conversion that would have tied it, but the pass was incomplete
Sankey kept Washington in the game almost by himself in the first half, scoring the first touchdown for the Huskies and gaining huge chunks of yardage against the normally stingy Bronco defense.
Of the 238 yards Washington gained in the half, Sankey had 178 of them. He ran 16 times for 130 yards and stretched out two short passes for another 48 yards.
Boise State was playing without starting defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, the team’s sack leader. Lawrence was sent home Thursday for violating unspecified team rules, his second suspension of the season.