Dec. 15, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
He sprinted 20-plus yards into the end zone.
He stepped up from a deep drop and plopped a long pass into the hands of Kevin Smith, who caught the ball without breaking stride on a deep post route.
Then he rolled out and zipped a perfect strike to Kasen Williams' chest as the wide receiver sprinted down the sidelines.
In other words, his throws looked as good as his legs.
"Oh, yeah, I feel better. A LOT better," the redshirt sophomore quarterback said Thursday, after 2 ½ weeks of rest for his sprained knee ended and Washington began full preparations for Dec. 29's Alamo Bowl against Baylor.
"Still not 100 percent but I am a lot better, I can tell you that," UW's single-season record holder for touchdown throws said.
Then Price flashed his characteristic, large smile.
There's a lot for him to be smiling about again.
The time he spent watching Nick Montana and other backups run the offense through six practices allowed Price to rest his left knee. Now it's as good as it's been since he sprained it Nov. 12 at USC, though he is still wearing a brace on it.
The time off also allowed his previously sprained right knee to get back to full go. Same with his bruised, non-throwing shoulder and a sprained ankle.
"I'm just able to move around a lot better," said Price, who has thrown for 29 touchdowns in his first season replacing Jake Locker. "A couple weeks ago I don't think I could have sprinted down to the end zone. So I am getting better.
"I don't feel like (it's) September," he joked, "but I'm getting better."
Here's a good Alamo omen for the Huskies: Price has been at his best after time off between games this season.
He threw three touchdown passes in the opener against Eastern Washington. Then after UW's bye, he completed 21 of 28 throws for 257 yards and four scoring throws to blow out Colorado Oct. 15. After he missed a start at Oregon State Nov. 19 because of the sprained knee, he came back to star in the Apple Cup. He was 21 for 29 for 291 yards and three more touchdown passes while scorching Washington State.
"He is moving better, which is important -- and we've still got quite a bit of time until we play," coach Steve Sarkisian said after his team returned from final exams for a one-hour practice at the Dempsey Indoor facility.
"What I notice as much as anything is the accuracy downfield throwing the ball. He's an extremely accurate guy (a 67.4 percent completion rate, which is about to break Steve Pelluer's UW season record from 1983). But when he really has his legs underneath him - especially when he can move him around and outside the pocket -- it's those throws down the field that I think are most critical for him to have his legs with him. I think we're seeing that."
The time off while the Huskies practiced young reserves on each of the last two weekends also helped senior defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu heal a sore ankle and broken thumb. Those injuries have hampered Ta'amu's ability to shed blockers for much of this season; ever try grabbing and throwing a charging, 300-pound blocker while on one good leg with a cast on your hand?
Sarkisian's intent in practices that will run each day through Monday is to get every Husky, healthy and still ailing, back up to game speed.
Baylor game speed, that is. Washington will have gone 33 days between the Apple Cup win and kickoff in San Antonio, when the Bears will feature a supersonic offense led by dynamic Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
"One of the keys for us now as we move into this week is we have to get our football shape back," Sarkisian said. "With all the time off - that's great, relaxation - but now we've got to get our football shape right."
Price loves the shape he's in right now. That's not to say the fierce competitor - one that booted a sideline garbage can at USC because he wasn't allowed back in the game because of the knee -- enjoyed watching the last two weekends of practice.
"It was pretty boring. I kind of like being in there," Price said, chuckling. "But it was good just to get my body back."
QUICK HITS: UW has fewer than 600 of its allotment of 9,500 Alamo Bowl tickets remaining for distribution. Fans can purchase seats for the game here on GoHuskies.com or by calling (206) 543-2200. ... The Huskies leave for San Antonio Dec. 23 and will practice each day at a local high school there. They have visits scheduled to SeaWorld, the San Antonio Spurs' NBA season opener, River Walk - which bills itself as the largest tourist attraction in Texas -- and a bowl-sponsored barbecue. ... The Associated Press writes that the matchup of Griffin and high-flying Baylor (9-3) with Price, Chris Polk and the prolific offense of Washington (7-5) makes the Alamo Bowl the fourth-most attractive of the 35 bowl pairings this holiday season. ... The Alamo Bowl will be officiated by a crew from the Atlantic Coast Conference. By NCAA rule, a bowl game must use game officials from a league not represented in that contest.