Nov. 1, 2012
|WASHINGTON at CALIFORNIA
Friday, Nov. 2 | 6 pm | Memorial Stadium
Gameday Central | TV: ESPN2 | Radio: KJR (Affiliates)
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
BERKELEY, Calif. - Keith Price arrived here in the Bay Area Thursday night armed with some of what he hasn't had on the Huskies' three previous road trips this season.
"When it's all on the line, I gotta go to 2," Price said of the jersey number leading receiver Kasen Williams will wear again Friday night when Washington (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) meets California (3-6, 2-4) at remodeled Memorial Stadium.
UW's quarterback admitted to a lack of trust in play calls last month, especially after the loss at Arizona two weeks ago in which he was sacked four times and turned the ball over thrice.
In that game Oct. 20, the Huskies had just forced an Arizona turnover at midfield to get back into it down 31-17 early in the third quarter. Coach Steve Sarkisian called for his first offensive play of the second the half to be Price throwing the ball high along the sidelines so the athletic Williams got a chance to make a huge play.
Price was immediately pressured and rolled left. Instead of throwing it then for Williams on little more than faith, the quarterback hesitated. By the time he made up his mind to throw to his 6-foot-2 sophomore, Price was hit from the side and lost a fumble. The Huskies never got closer in that loss.
But then last week in the fourth quarter of a tie game at home against No. 7 Oregon State, Price lofted a pass on the sideline near the goal line to a covered Williams. The Washington state high school high jump champion a few years ago soared over a Beavers cornerback for a 29-yard gain to the 1. UW turned that into a 17-10 lead.
Then after Oregon State tied it, Price threw another jump ball to the opposite sideline. Williams out-leaped two Beavers for the ball that time, converting a key third down near midfield. The drive ended with the Huskies' go-ahead field goal by Travis Coons with 80 seconds remaining.
"Coach Sark has been harping on that," Price said this week. "It was the same situation as it was against Arizona when he wanted me to just throw it (to Williams), and I didn't quite trust it. I've just got to trust it a little bit more."
Trusting in Williams again Friday night may be the key to Washington's inconsistent offense. Williams has a two-inch and 20-plus-pound size advantage over any of the seven defensive backs listed on Cal's two-deep roster. And the Golden Bears' defense could be missing up to four starters because of injuries.
"Keith and I have been talking. I've been telling him, `Just give me a chance to make plays for you,'" Williams said after the win over Oregon State.
"I tell him all the time my job is to make him look good," he added, smiling.
Sarkisian was encouraged Price trusted Williams to make the plays last week despite good coverage on the game's two biggest plays.
"When you've got a talent like Kasen Williams one-on-one, it's trusting him that he's going to go make that play. Because that's his game," Sarkisian said. "Kasen isn't a guy that's going to create five yards of separation with speed. That's not the way he's set up. He's a really strong guy. He's got tremendous leaping ability, a 7-foot high jumper. He's strong, 215 pounds or so. He's got great body control when the ball's in the air.
"So the types of throws that we make to him have to be the ones that allow him to do what his strengths are. And not throw the ball out in front so that he's going to run underneath it so much but to where it becomes more of a contested 50-50 and allows Kasen to defeat the man who's playing with him one on one.
This new trust - and the trickle-down effect of what it could do for Price's ball security and decision making -- could unlock Washington's trap door on the road. The Huskies have won just three times in 11 road trips since they were last here in Berkeley on Nov. 27, 2010. That was the rainy, hailing day Chris Polk scored on "God's play" with a power run off tackle on the final play to keep Washington eligible for its first bowl in eight seasons.
The Huskies haven't won away from Seattle in seven tries since Oct. 1, 2011, at Utah.
Ask Price what it will take to finally win on the road and he responds without hesitation.
"Just protect the ball," said the QB that committed 10 turnovers in Washington's three-game losing streak but just one in the win over Oregon State that ended it.
"Obviously, we have a pretty good record when we win the turnover battle. That's one of the key things this week is just taking care of the ball and executing."
On defense, former Cal line coach Tosh Lupoi has been stressing to his Huskies pass rushers all week the need to contain Zach Maynard. The Bears' quarterback can be erratic passing, as he was last year in UW's win over Cal in Seattle. And Cal is tied with Washington State for allowing the most sacks in the league at 34 in nine games; UW's offensive line isn't the only one whacked by injuries. But Maynard is most dangerous when he gets outside the tackle for improvisational gains.
Maynard will be without his top receiver, Keenan Allen. Cal announced Thursday its most dynamic player with 60 receptions this season, second-most in the Pac-12, is out for with a knee injury sustained last week in a 49-27 loss at Utah.
So all the trust Maynard has with Allen, his half brother, won't affect Washington Friday.
The Huskies hope the renewed trust Price has with Williams affects the Bears. In a decisive way.
And on the road, for a change.
"We have a challenge. We don't shy away from it as a team. We almost embrace it. ... We haven't won on the road in over a year," Sarkisian said. "If that doesn't motivate you in some degree ..."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: According to the NCAA, UW has played the second-toughest schedule in the nation. The eight opponents so far are 47-17 (.734). The final four foes are 9-24 (.273). Washington's first five league opponents are 31-8 (.795). Two of those losses are to the Huskies. ... Sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins is already third in UW history in receptions by a tight end. He needs eight catches to pass Jerramy Stevens (1999-2001) for second place, and 15 to pass Mark Bruener (1991-94) as its all-time leader. ASJ's 40 catches this season are most in the nation for a tight end. ... The forecast for the first Friday-night game in the 89-year history of Memorial Stadium: Partly cloudy, temperatures in the upper 50s.