Oct. 20, 2012
|Arizona 52, Washington 17
Saturday, Oct. 20 | Arizona Stadium
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By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
TUCSON, Ariz. – About 30 friends and family of Keith Price surrounded their beloved quarterback in a semicircle five deep amid the darkness between the team buses and Arizona Stadium.
It was half past 11 late Saturday night – and high time for support for the Huskies’ disheartened trigger man. When he needed them most, the dozens in purple and white 17 T-shirts delivered.
“I’m at a loss for words, man,” Price said.
He meant about this stunning game. He also could have meant the timely support.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a career-high 110 yards receiving. Price had a career highs of 29 completions and 52 attempts. But Arizona rampaging through the defense and three more turnovers from a shaken Price doomed the Huskies to a 52-17 loss in the desert Saturday night.
This was the most points Washington had allowed in the 29-game series with Arizona.
“Extremely, extremely disappointing,” coach Steve Sarkisian said, standing solemnly outside UW’s locker room with his lips pressed together and his arms folded across his chest.
Price was 29 of 52 for 256 yards and a touchdown pass of 6 yards to Seferian-Jenkins in the second quarter for Washington (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12). That cut Arizona’s early, 21-point lead to 24-10. Price threw two interceptions, one at the Arizona 18 while getting drilled in the chest in the first half and the other on a tipped throw behind Cody Bruns into U of A’s end zone in the third quarter.
“Man, I prepare so hard,” Price said, shaking his head. “Man, it’s just unfortunate.”
For the fourth consecutive game Price often ran for his life. He was sacked four times by a defense for Arizona (4-3, 1-3) that was last in the conference with six sacks in six games coming in.
Price has committed 10 turnovers in the last three games, all UW losses. And now he’s at something of a crisis of confidence with what Sarkisian is calling for him.
Afterward, Price acknowledged he isn’t trusting what he’s seeing on the field. That he is missing receivers breaking free downfield because he is thinking of the pressure he’s been getting all season behind a patchwork, injury wracked offensive line with four first-year starters. That he is disconnected mentally with his play caller and mentor, Sarkisian.
“I’ve got to trust in him, trust the system is going to work for me,” Price said.
That was after Sarkisian spent the final minutes of the third quarter and the long break into the fourth with his back to the field. The Huskies’ fourth-year coach and former BYU quarterback knelt down to get eye to eye with Price. Sarkisian then gave his struggling, sagging QB a part pep talk, part teaching lesson as Price sat at the far right end of Washington’s bench.
“You can’t be playing against ghosts,” Sarkisian told him, as he continually patted Price on his left knee pad for encouragement.
The message: Believe in what you are about to do – and then in what you are seeing as plays develop. Block out the potential for a pass rush, for a missed route, for a penalty – whatever – and trust that the call and the game plan will work.
“I just want him to believe me,” Sarkisian said, describing how Price lacked confidence to pull that 2011 record-breaking trigger of his to cash in on the many chance’s the 11th-ranked pass defense in the league gave the Huskies Saturday night. “I want him to take the information and the things that I’m giving him – and trust me in what I am telling him in the truth. Believe in what I am asking him to do, and do go out and do his best to try to do that.
“If it doesn’t work, then as I told him I will be the first one to tell him, ‘Keith, I was wrong. I’m sorry. I should have done a better job for you.’ But we can’t get to that point if there’s some doubt there.”
Asked what might be getting in the way of that trust with UW’s record holder with 33 touchdowns and a completion rate of 66.9 in 2011, Sarkisian said, “I don’t know. That’s what I’m going to be thinking about for the next four hours until we get home.”
The Huskies’ defense lost one-on-one battles along the line of scrimmage in allowing Ka’Deem Carey to run for 109 of his 172 yards rushing in the first half. And they allowed Arizona’s Matt Scott to throw all over them to receivers as wide open as the desert range surrounding them en route to 217 yards passing and three easy scores in the first two quarters.
But then the defense rose up to get UW back into the game. Rush end Josh Shirley crashed in on Scott and forced a weakened, deflected throw that Travis Feeney intercepted at midfield and returned all the way to the Arizona 6. When Bishop Sankey, who finished with 87 yards rushing, ran it in from a yard out, Washington trailed 31-17 and had all the momentum going into halftime.
“Oh, definitely, I really thought that was a turning point,” Feeney said.
Then on Arizona’s first scrimmage play following the break, safety Sean Parker forced a fumble by Carey that end Talia Crichton recovered at the Arizona 47. The Huskies were in position to pull within 31-24 with almost two full quarters to play.
But on the ensuing play, Price didn’t send a receiver in motion as prescribed. He and the offensive line didn’t have the correct protection call. On his bootleg pass, pressure leaked from the middle and the side. Price tried to wait to let Kasen Williams break free down the sidelines, but as he did blitzing Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers hit him from his right side and knocked the ball loose. The Wildcats recovered Price’s fourth lost fumble in three weeks at the UW 43.
“I should have thrown the ball away,” Price said.
The play was particularly frustrating because the Huskies had spent part of halftime discussing that first of the second half call well before it came.
“He’s got some doubt in his mind right know,” Sarkisian said. “And it’s hard to play quarterback with doubt in your mind.”
Arizona converted the fumble into a 17-yard pitch, catch and run for a touchdown between Scott and Austin Hill. A would-be 31-24 game became 38-17, and the Huskies didn’t score again.
“We’re disappointed, because we know how good we can be,” said senior co-captain Desmond Trufant, who was one of those beaten in many one-on-battles outside. “But you can hope and you can dream, but you have to go out and perform.
“They outplayed us. They won more battles than we did – and you see the score. That’s what happens when you don’t win (the one-on-one fights).”
Sarkisian left Price and his first-team units on both offense and defense in the game through its ugly end. The coach explained “there’s something to be said for battling.
Price said he understood, adding the Huskies’ motto is “FINISH.”
That applies to the good and to the bad.
“We've got to believe in ourselves,” Sarkisian said. “It's disappointing. It's just disappointing. Because we are better than this.
“We are better than that.”
The Huskies now return home to play eighth-ranked Oregon State next Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
The remodeling of their psyche began in the locker room late Saturday night
“We’ve got to lock arms,” Sarkisian told his players after this one, “and continue to fight.”