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Monday, November 28, 2011 - Page updated at 08:00 p.m.

Huskies get a chance to rest before learning next mission

By Bob Condotta
Seattle Times staff reporter

Now the Washington Huskies rest and wait.

The resting part seemed to most excite quarterback Keith Price, who looked healthier Saturday in the Apple Cup as he led the Huskies to a 38-21 victory over Washington State. Still, Price remains far from healthy, dealing with lingering knee issues.

"Next week is going to be pretty sweet since I get to rest up even more," said Price, who showed a little more spring in his step against the Cougars after having taken most of the previous week off in a defeat at Oregon State. "I wouldn't have been able to do a lot of that stuff last week."

The next time Price and the Huskies play it will be in a bowl game, with most projections sending them to the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Diego. Each would have UW facing a Big 12 team.

Their destination, though, almost certainly won't be official until Sunday, after the final BCS pairings are announced.

"I just don't see it happening earlier," Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl's vice president of marketing and communications, said Sunday morning.

The Alamo Bowl has the first choice of Pac-12 teams following the BCS, and Hill said there are "too many variables" to be able to narrow things down much at the moment. Among them, whether Stanford somehow fell out of the BCS and became available to the Alamo. Alamo Bowl president and CEO Rick Fox attended the Apple Cup, but Hill noted the bowl also attended the Utah/Colorado game and the California/Arizona State game. And he said every Pac-12 bowl eligible team remains a possible option. Cal, though, might be the most direct competition for UW after also finishing 7-5 (that UW beat the Bears isn't necessarily taken into consideration).

Hill said another factor is "we don't know who the Big 12 opponent at this point is going to be, and that's important too if there is some sort of story line there."

Hill said the bowl has somewhat narrowed its Big 12 options to the loser of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game, the winner of the Texas-Baylor game, or Kansas State. "One of those three will almost certainly be our selection," he said.

The Holiday Bowl has the selection following the Alamo, and most speculation is that the Huskies would get picked by the Holiday if they were bypassed by the Alamo.

Washington won the Holiday Bowl last year, beating Nebraska 19-7, and while repeat appearances aren't always encouraged, it doesn't sound like it would be a big issue on either side in this case. The Sun Bowl, which is Dec. 31 in El Paso, has the choice after the Holiday.

Players mostly said they had no real preference.

"I'm just ready to play one more with my teammates," Price said.

Indeed, a bowl game will give the Huskies a chance at an eighth victory, which would be its most since the 2001 season when UW went 8-4 after losing to Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

Washington was going to a bowl game regardless if it beat WSU. But the trip will feel a little better now that the Huskies avoided heading into it with a four-game losing streak.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said he was proud of the way the Huskies were able to shake off the defeats against Oregon, USC and Oregon State and prepare to beat the Cougars.

"This has been obviously a long month for us, and we talked about want-to and all of that and our guys have every day — as hard as it has been — have really brought it," he said. "Not to take anything away from the Cougs, or that they didn't deserve it, it just felt like our kids deserved it."

With Price healthier, the Huskies got a more efficient and big-play passing attack going, averaging 13.9 yards per completion. Price also got better protection than he has in past weeks, sacked just once.

He responded with three touchdown passes, his most since throwing four against Colorado on Oct. 15.

That also helped eventually open up some holes for Chris Polk, who had 52 yards in the final quarter to finish with exactly 100 for the game — increasing his school record of 100-yard games to 20.

And against a WSU team that has struggled to protect the passer all season, the Huskies unleashed their best pass rush of the season, getting seven sacks on the Cougars. The Huskies hadn't had more than four in a game all season and just 17 for the season.

"It's definitely been tough (the past month)," Price said. "Not just on me but on the team. It's been rough. We lost four of five games, it was just rough trying to get up every day and having to go to work again. But it paid off for us today."

NOTE

• The Huskies won't practice all week, likely returning to the field Saturday.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.

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