Oct. 24, 2012
|WASHINGTON VS. #7 OREGON STATE
Saturday, Oct. 20 | 7:15 pm | CenturyLink Field | Buy Tickets
Gameday Central | TV: Pac-12 Networks
Online: Pac-12 Digital | Radio: KJR (Affiliates)
SEATTLE - For one of the few times in 2012, Keith Price looked like "Teeth" Price of 2011.
The Huskies' usually happy-go-lucky quarterback faked a handoff and threw a perfectly lofted pass that found Austin Seferian-Jenkins on his hands in stride on a deep out route. Then Price bopped around the backfield, tapping left tackle Micah Hatchie on the sides of his helmet as a playful way to say thanks.
Sure, it was just practice Wednesday morning for Saturday night's next huge test for Washington (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) against No. 7 Oregon State (6-0, 4-0).
But it was sure better than the frustrated, downcast Price the Huskies had seen four days earlier at Arizona. Price committed three more turnovers, leaving him with 10 in three games. UW has lost all three.
"I know I've got to go get on my horse," Price said. "I know my team is looking up to me.
"My main thing is just not turning the ball over. I feel like I've been getting in a good rhythm throwing the ball. It's just minimizing those mistakes.
"Once I take care of that, the sky's the limit."
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau is encouraged by that, and by Price's new giddy up this week.
"The last couple days he's got that sparkle in his eyes," Kiesau said.
Coach Steve Sarkisian is noticing, too.
"He was really good today," Sarkisian said. "I don't know if he threw an incompletion there for a while. He was really good.
"He's a great competitor. He'll come and play (Saturday)."
This will be Price's first career start against Oregon State. He did not start last November in Corvallis because of a bad knee, then came in on basically one leg to rally the Huskies to a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 38-21 loss.
This season's Beavers have one of the more veteran and skilled defensive secondaries in the Pac-12 led by cornerback Jordan Poyer. Price calls Poyer "one of the best I've seen this year."
"They have a really good defense," Price said. "But we are not really worried about them. We are worried about ourselves, minimizing our mistakes. And when we have big plays, explosive plays, we have to take advantage of them."
One way to take advantage is for his receivers to be on the same page with him as he extends plays during the many times defenses are getting pressure on him.
Last season when Price scrambled, he had senior wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar breaking off their routes and making veteran plays. They often rushed back toward their quarterback for improvisational completions.
This season, James Johnson was poised to be Price's second senior wide receiver next to Cody Bruns. Then he had wrist surgery in August. He recently got the pins out, and Sarkisian says the plan is to redshirt Johnson so he can come back in 2013 as a fifth-year senior, like Bruns did last year for this season.
When Price has scrambled for his life so often this fall behind an offensive line with four first-year starters, his corps of fast but younger receivers haven't always been where he's needed them. That's led to either sacks or Price throwing the ball away.
Price chuckled ruefully when asked about it.
"Oh, we're still working on that. That's definitely a part of our offense that we need to improve," he said. "Just having a bunch of young guys that haven't really been in that scenario, we're still working on scramble drills and extending plays.
"Obviously, we had Jermaine and Devin here, and they were pretty smart at finding weaknesses in defenses. So we're still trying to improve on that in our offenses."
Asked if he liked what Huskies receivers are doing once Price scrambles Sarkisian said, "at times."
"We're still learning that," he said. "I thought we had a really veteran group of receivers last year that had a real understanding of how to move with the quarterback when he got out of the pocket. We have guys who are learning to do that right now.
"I think we are getting better. But I know we will only improve the more we play football."
Sarkisian agreed the lack of synchronization of what Price is looking for and what his receivers are doing during scrambles is a factor for the problems in UW's passing game.
"One of the just fundamental things when a quarterback scrambles is you want to move in the direction of the quarterback, not in the opposite direction of the quarterback - even though there is green grass over there to run to, you want to move in the direction of the quarterback.
"We've had a little bit of a difficult time understanding that."
Monday, Sarkisian met again with his struggling quarterback.
The gist of the latest talk?
"Man, just play. Throw the ball with conviction and just play," Price said. "The team is looking up to me and the offense is looking up to me. And just keep striving.
"He knows that things are going to get untracked for me. And he understands all the hard work that I've been putting in.
"He said the ball's going to bounce in my court."
Beyond the fun with Hatchie and the chuckle about scrambling, Price had one more laugh Wednesday - when asked about all the negativity directed toward him from outside the program recently.
"Oh, I'm not worried about it," he said, smiling. "When I'm doin good they'll jump back on the bandwagon, you know. I'm not too worried about it.
"I can only control me, and I can only control the offense. That's all I'm in control of.
"When we start winning games, there are going to be a lot of happy fans."