UW faces tough task in Baylor, Griffin in Alamo Bowl
The matchup might be UW's toughest this season as Baylor ranks second in the nation in total offense, with a quarterback who is a Heisman Trophy contender.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Alamo BowlWashington (7-5) vs. Baylor (9-3)
When: Dec. 29, 6 p.m., ESPN
Where: San Antonio, Texas
Last time UW played Baylor: 1965
Currently available to UW season-ticket holders and mini-plan holders, for sale to general public at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Prices are $75 and $105. Online at www.gohuskies.com, through Ticketmaster.
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The ink had barely dried on the invitations when Alamo Bowl organizers voiced the obvious story line for their game.
"It's going to be an offensive shootout, we assume," said Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl's vice president of marketing and communications shortly after it was announced that Washington will face Baylor in the 19th edition of the game in San Antonio on Dec. 29.
What's appealing about the matchup to bowl organizers, however, may be merely exasperating to the coaches involved.
"It's a huge challenge," UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said of the prospect of facing Baylor on Sunday morning, before the matchup was officially announced.
Indeed, on paper it will be the biggest one yet for UW this season as Baylor ranks second in the nation in total offense, averaging 571 yards, and sixth in scoring at 43.5.
The triggerman of the Baylor offense is quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is a Heisman Trophy favorite, led the nation this year in passing efficiency and also is a solid runner.
"Tremendous player," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. "What I've appreciated about him, it seems like he's in very good command of what they do. He's in charge of the whole thing. He can utilize his legs and he can throw the ball down the field, as well."
Sarkisian, though, said such a challenge comes with the territory of a bowl game.
When the Huskies practiced Sunday morning, they were pretty sure they were headed to San Antonio.
The Alamo Bowl had the first pick of Pac-12 teams after Oregon and Stanford headed to BCS bowls. The Alamo then picked UW over California and Utah, all teams that finished 7-5 in the Pac-12 this year, issuing the official invitation later in the afternoon.
Hill said the fact UW beat both Cal and Utah "was important" as well as the fact that "outside of the Oregon State game, when their quarterback was out, they competed with everybody."
The Alamo had the second choice of Big 12 teams following the BCS and Cotton, and had its choice of Baylor or Oklahoma, ultimately choosing the Bears, located in Waco, about 170 miles from San Antonio.
Hill said bowl organizers liked that Baylor won its last five games, including a 48-24 win over Texas on Saturday, punctuated by a strong finish by Griffin, who ended the season with 36 touchdown passes.
Also, Baylor beat Oklahoma, 45-38, on its way to a 9-3 overall record.
And a pairing of two offensive-minded teams never hurts when it comes to drawing a TV audience — the game will be televised nationally on ESPN, kicking off at 6 p.m. Seattle time.
Baylor's offense scored as much as it did out of necessity, with a defense that allowed 35.7 points, ranking 109th out of 120 FBS teams, with Bears coaches surely finding their own challenge in attempting to slow down Keith Price, Chris Polk and the rest of UW's offense.
And many will figure a UW defense that ranked 99th in the nation, allowing 33.3 points per game, will have little chance at slowing down Griffin.
The Huskies, though, will hope to duplicate the success of last season when they were a prohibitive underdog against another Big 12 team, Nebraska, and came away from the Holiday Bowl with a 19-7 win.
That game featured the oddity of a rematch.
Baylor and UW, meanwhile, haven't played since 1965. Washington is 1-3 all-time against the Bears.
Holt said there will be much to lean on from last year's experience.
"We had the same opportunities as the other team and our guys took advantage of the practices and they were really focused and they came out and executed really, really well and played really, really well," he said. "You hope that happens this year when it's a new year and new challenges and new players and we'll see how that goes."
This is the second year the Alamo Bowl has been affiliated with the Pac-12, an agreement reached before the 2010 season as the conference attempted to branch out with its postseason games under new commissioner Larry Scott.
The game offers a per-team payout of roughly $3 million, though that money is split evenly with the rest of the conference, after expenses.
Washington has never played in the Alamo Bowl, which was inaugurated in 1993.
This is the second straight year UW has played in a bowl after a seven-year drought snapped last season.
"They're excited," Sarkisian said of UW's players. "They've put in a lot of time and a lot of effort into this thing. I think they're well deserved of the opportunity and they understand that. I don't think it's just utter jubilation for the fact that we get to go to a bowl game. We're going to go there to win. We're going to prepare to win."
• Washington's official ticket allotment is 9,500.
• The Huskies will be off until Friday, then will practice Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
• UW will depart for San Antonio on Dec. 23 and practice there Dec. 24-27.
• Price won the Guy Flaherty Award, the Washington football program's oldest and most prestigious team award, while Polk, Cort Dennison and Greg Walker won MVP honors at the team's postseason awards dinner. The dinner, which included coaches, players, family and fans, was held last Tuesday in downtown Seattle.
Price started 11 of 12 games for the Alamo Bowl-bound Huskies, breaking the UW record with 29 touchdown passes. He completed 219 of 325 passes for 2,625 yards and is on pace to set school records for completion percentage (.674) and pass efficiency (157.91). Price, who fought through a number of injuries during the season, also won the Earle T. Glant Tough Husky Award.
Polk was named the Most Valuable Offensive Player for the third straight season. He rushed for 1,341 yards in 2011, making him just the second Husky ever to rush for 1,000 yards or more in three seasons.
Dennison won the Most Valuable Defensive Player. The defensive captain finished the regular season as the Pac-12 leader in tackles with 113.
Walker won the Most Valuable Special Teams Player for the second year in a row. A regular on virtually every special teams unit, he finished with 15 tackles.
Senior defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu won the L. Wait Rising Defensive Lineman of the Year Award for the second year in a row, while senior offensive tackle Senio Kelemete won the John P. Angel Offensive Lineman of the Year. He also won it in 2009.
Senior wide receiver Devin Aguilar was honored with the Chuck Niemi Big Hit Award.
The Travis Spring Outstanding Freshmen Award winner was true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and the Husky Fever 12th Man Award was presented to safety Sean Parker.
Long snapper Brendan Lopez, a two-time first-team Academic All-Pac-12 selection, took home the 101 Club Academic Achievement Award.
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