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Friday, November 18, 2011
Break might help struggling Price

By Ted Miller

It might be a good thing that Washington quarterback Keith Price is going to miss Saturday's game at Oregon State. While that supposition hangs on the Huskies managing to beat the 2-8 Beavers with backup Nick Montana, Price has looked like he could use a break the past few weeks.

When the Huskies headed to Stanford on Oct. 22, they were 5-1 and ranked 22nd. Price, a sophomore, was fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (177.9) and had thrown 21 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.

Keith Price
"I don't think we've played very well around him," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian says of the struggles of sophomore quarterback Keith Price.
Price and Washington got crunched 65-21 that evening, and a downward slide started for him and the Huskies, who have lost three of four, including the drubbing by the Cardinal. Price has throw four touchdown passes in his past four games, with six interceptions, and his rating has fallen to 155.1.

That's hardly terrible -- it ranks 16th in the nation. And, to be fair, the competition level went up, considering those defeats came to Stanford, Oregon and USC. But Price also threw three picks at home against woeful Arizona (though one wasn't his fault, he was saved from another by a penalty).

And, yes, coach Steve Sarkisian has seen it, too. Price has been playing with multiple injuries much of the season -- ankle, both knees -- but there's more than just a physical element to Price's recent struggles.

"I think when you start to struggle a little bit and you're a young quarterback, you can have a tendency to press and to maybe try a little too hard," Sarkisian said. "I think that's been a part of it."

But it's not all on Price.

"I don't think we've played very well around him," Sarkisian said. "I don't think we've protected the quarterback great. We haven't run the football as well as I think we can to take some of the pressure off of him. We haven't made tough catches. All of those things added up, your quarterback goes from being one of the hottest in the country to struggling a couple of games."

That's all fair. Price's receivers have dropped way too many passes. His offensive line has yielded 29 sacks, including seven to USC. And running back Chris Polk, who is averaging 113.2 yards per game, has only 116 total rush yards in the past two games.

So Price perhaps could use the break before the Apple Cup and whatever bowl game the Huskies end up in. Get healthy. Rediscover his kwan.

Of course, again, they need to win in Corvallis. To make sure that happens, the Huskies need to regain, to use Sarkisian's term, their "real sense of purpose and attitude," which he said he didn't see at USC.

As for Montana, son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, he might not be asked to do too much if Polk can get back on track against the Pac-12's No. 11 run defense. But Sarkisian said he feels good about Montana running the entire offense.

"I feel great about Nick Montana because I have some experience with him now," Sarkisian said. "I understand what his demeanor is like on game day more so than the beginning of the season.''

The experience will be good for Montana. And the rest should be good for Price.

But none of it will feel good if it becomes the fourth loss in five games.