Nov. 14, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Keith Price's injury filled season may have finally caught up with him.
Coach Steve Sarkisian says "there is a potential" his starting quarterback will not be able to play for the Huskies (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) on Saturday at Oregon State (2-8, 2-5) because of a sprained left knee.
"We'll prepare ourselves for Nick Montana to make his first start on Saturday," Sarkisian said. "If things change then things change. But I think you have to prepare for that so that we don't get caught off guard late in the week and Keith is not able to play."
Price had an MRI exam later Monday afternoon, hours after Sarkisian spoke.
"We'll have a much better understanding (Tuesday) of where he's at," Sarkisian said.
Price watched Montana lead the first-team offense during the Huskies' one-hour practice Monday.
Price has 25 touchdown passes, three away from Cody Pickett's UW record for a single season from 2001, and spent much of the first half of the season leading the nation in touchdown throws. He sprained his left knee for the second time this season last weekend with 11 minutes left in the third quarter at USC. He got twisted inside a pile of Trojans on the fourth and final time they sacked him, getting bent awkwardly back while defenders held the bottom of his legs.
He left the 37-10 game for his own good after that play. The redshirt sophomore was so angry at not being able to do more for his team, he kicked a garbage can behind Washington's bench after the injury.
He vowed after the game outside the locker room he would be healthy enough to play against the Beavers. Price has delivered on similar promises this season while playing through another sprained left knee, a sprained right knee, a sprained ankle and a bruised non-throwing shoulder.
But Sarkisian said Price's knee swelled alarmingly Sunday, a day after the 40-17 loss at USC. The swelling was down "considerably" by Monday evening.
Montana, a redshirt freshman and son of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, threw his first career touchdown pass at USC. It came on a fade route to Kasen Williams with 13 seconds remaining.
He entered with 8:52 left in the third quarter and endured a three and out with a sack on the first drive. He was sacked twice in his first five pass tries against the Trojans, then looked sharp in the fourth quarter.
"It's just the reaction time," Sarkisian said. "As the game moved forward, his comfort level set in. And he played a lot faster, he threw the ball accurately."
Montana has appeared in four games this season, all in the last five weeks. He has completed 13 of 20 passes for 147 yards, the touchdown to Williams at USC and one interception. Sarkisian said he's been impressed with how Montana has practiced and played in the weeks since he held onto the ball too long, was sacked and lost a fumble on his first college play Oct. 15 against Colorado.
"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."
Whether it's Montana or Price at quarterback, Sarkisian called the Oregon State game a "gut check."
He wants to see better, more physical play along the offensive line, where he said he may make some personnel or schematic changes this week. He wants better tackling on defense. He wants far better performances on special teams, which helped doomed the Huskies at USC.
But most of all, Sarkisian wants to see the players respond to all their and their coaches' talk of this being such a resilient team -- as it has been while winning 10 of 14 games, including last season's Holiday Bowl.
"We talk a lot about being a resilient group. (That) talk has now got to become reality," the third-year coach said. "We talk like that's who we are, but now we have to respond. We haven't responded in recent weeks.
"This is gut-check time. We're going to find out if we're a resilient group or not. It's easy to say that we are. Now we have to go out and prove it."