By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Keith Price and his sore throwing shoulder is already far ahead of where they were at any time last week.
Will that be enough for the fifth-year senior to start his final game in Husky Stadium, the 106th Apple Cup?
That is the question that will likely linger until Friday’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff between UW (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) and Washington State (6-5, 4-4) on FOX television, the Washington IMG College radio network -- and here on GoHuskies.com with another live game chat and free, live streaming audio of Bob Rondeau’s radio broadcast.
Price tested his shoulder Monday morning by throwing in practice. Last week, when his string of 25 consecutive starts ended with Washington’s 69-27 win at Oregon State, Price didn’t throw until Thursday.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday afternoon that UW’s career leader in touchdown throws and completion percentage is “in much better shape this week than he was last week.”
"He’s not 100 percent. He’s not fully recovered. That’s very clear," Sarkisian added, in his weekly Monday press conference.
So the Huskies aren’t sure whether Price or redshirt freshman Cyler Miles will start on Friday.
"We really don’t know, quite honestly, yet," Sarkisian said.
"The way we’ll do it is just like last week: We will prepare Cyler to be the starter. And if Keith is physically able to go, where we feel comfortable and confident is what he’s able to do, then Keith will be able to step in and execute the game plan."
Saturday night in Corvallis, Price surprised many when he came out in full pads less than an hour before kickoff and pumped sharp passes to his starting receivers, as usual.
"I feel GREAT!" he bellowed during his warm-ups. "You know, God always has a plan."
Sarkisian considered just before kickoff starting Price against the Beavers, eight days after a UCLA defender drove his passing shoulder into the Rose Bowl turf on Washington’s last offensive play before halftime. But the coach ultimately decided Miles had prepared so thoroughly all week to start, and he didn’t want to upset those plans.
"Keith has been in the system for five years now ... he can come in and perform. And he was very close to (at Oregon State). Quite honestly, he was probably ready to go Saturday night," Sarkisian said. "But I just felt better about our team with Cyler’s preparation and Cyler being the guy this past Saturday.
"So we’ll see how the week goes. It’s a very comforting situation to be in, knowing that you have two guys who can go in and win Pac-12 football games. Both of them are very capable of going out and playing very well on Friday."
An educated guess, knowing the ultra-competitive Price: it will take something like Cougars locking him inside his off-campus residence to keep the fifth-year senior from starting his Husky Stadium finale.
Miles completed 13 of 24 passes for 162 yards at Oregon State, with a touchdown to leaping Kevin Smith before Sarkisian shut down the passing game in the second half. The former all-state quarterback at Denver’s Mullen High School also gained first downs running, as Sarkisian called more QB runs than he usually does with Price.
“Cyler’s performance gives me a comfort level in knowing I have a capable guy who can perform and run our offense and command our offense,” Sarkisian said.
“I also know I have a fifth-year senior who is working his tail off in the rehab room to get himself to go out and perform, and play to finish off his college career on a high note.”
SANKEY, SEFERIAN-JENKINS NATIONAL FINALISTS
Bishop Sankey is finally getting some overdue national publicity.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins' national reputation keeps growing.
Sankey, who has 1,575 yards through 11 games, was named Monday as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award given annually to the nation’s premier running back.
Sankey is third in the country in rushing. He romped for 179 yards in less than three quarters last weekend at Oregon State.
The quiet, let-my-play-speak-for-itself junior gets to go to Orlando, Fla., all expenses paid, to be part of the national college football awards show on ESPN Dec. 12. Sankey will be there with Ka’Deem Carey of Arizona and Andre Williams of Boston College, the other two Doak Walker finalists.
Williams leads the nation with 2,073 yards rushing. Carey is fourth, 16 yards behind Sankey, with 1,559.
Sankey needs 121 yards in the Apple Cup and UW’s bowl game in December to break Corey Dillon's single-season rushing record at Washington from 1996. Sankey's three rushing touchdowns last week leave him with 34 rushing scores for his career, tied with Napoleon Kaufman for most in UW history.
Not bad for a smallish-looking junior who only became a starter in the second game of last season, after Jesse Callier tore knee ligaments.
All you need to know about how Sankey handles his increasing attention came outside the visitors’ locker room Saturday night in Corvallis. He was asked about his latest huge game, which set Washington off to 530 yards rushing against Oregon State, the second-most in school history.
"Man, shouts out to our O-line for that one," Sankey said. "They kept it on them the whole game."
Seferian-Jenkins was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award for the second consecutive year. The award goes annually to the nation’s premier tight end.
Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron of North Carolina and Nick O’Leary of Florida State are the finalists. The winner will also be announced at that national awards show Dec. 12 in Orlando, though only the winner will be there.
Seferian-Jenkins has 31 catches for 361 yards and a UW-leading six touchdown catches this season while missing one of UW’s 11 games. Ebron has 50 catches for 774 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games. O’Leary has 27 receptions for 447 yards and seven scores in 11 games for the No. 2 team in the country.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: UW is expecting an essentially sold-out Apple Cup. Only about 500 or so tickets remained available for sale in new, 70,000-seat Husky Stadium as of Monday morning. Washington State had sold 3,949 visitors' tickets as of Monday. ... Eleven of the last 12 Apple Cups played at Husky Stadium have attracted crowds of at least 70,000. The only exeception: in 2009, when 68,697 watched Washington beat WSU 30-0. ... The weather forecast for game time Friday afternoon: Cloudy, 48 degrees, 20-percent chance of rain and very little wind.