Montana To Make 1st Career Start At OSU
Nov. 17, 2011
Six UW Football Players Earn Academic Honors
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Coach Steve Sarkisian let out a big laugh when asked if he thought Joe Montana had "an extra bounce in his step" while watching the Huskies' latest practice.
"I think he's just a proud dad," Sarkisian said Thursday.
The Hall of Fame quarterback and his wife Jennifer are going to be even more proud of their son Nick on Saturday. That's when the redshirt freshman quarterback will make his first college start.
One month past 34 years after Joe Montana made his first career start at Notre Dame, Nick Montana will lead the Huskies (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) at Oregon State (2-8, 2-5) in Corvallis beginning at 12:30 p.m. on ROOT Sports television regionally, the Washington IMG College radio network and here again on GoHuskies.com with a live play by play and analysis on our live game chat.
Sarkisian announced his decision Thursday, confirming what had become apparent this week: That Keith Price's sprained left knee needs more time to heal. The coach believes the rest will allow Price to start the Apple Cup on Nov. 26 and Washington's bowl game next month.
"It just felt right," Sarkisian said after practice of a decision about which he first informed Montana Wednesday night. He told the team Thursday and then the public via Twitter. "I loved how Nick had looked the last couple of days. Keith's not 100 percent -- obviously you can tell.
"I thought Keith looked much better (Thursday). He's moving better. I think he'll be available in emergency status on Saturday. For our team it's the right thing to do. For Keith it was the right thing to do.
"Nicky's earned it. He's done a nice job."
Price's 25 touchdown passes this season are tied for the second most in any of UW's 120 seasons of football. He is three behind Cody Pickett's school record from 2001. He sprained the knee in the third quarter of last weekend's loss at USC. Price, who had sprained the knee earlier this season, had it twisted on the Trojans' fourth and final sack of him during the Huskies' 40-17 loss last Saturday in Los Angeles.
Price has been in full uniform and pads but has worn a bulky knee brace as he's watched Montana lead the offense in practices this week.
"We're not going to change offensively. We run what we run. It's a little too late in the season to right now to change who we are and what we do," Sarkisian said Wednesday when asked if he would change the game plan for Montana starting.
That game plan will likely include many handoffs from Montana to Chris Polk. Sarkisian knows the Huskies' 1,000-yard rusher needs more than the nine carries Polk got last week at USC. And Oregon State is 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense.
Joe and Jennifer Montana were at practice again Thursday watching their son on the eve of his first college start.
Joe's came on Oct. 1, 1977, for Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., against Michigan State. That was when he was a junior, after he had led the Fighting Irish to multiple comeback wins as a late-game replacement dating to his freshman season.
Wearing jersey No. 3, he went on to start the final nine games of Notre Dame's 1977 season and led the Irish to the national championship. After Montana led Notre Dame to another top-10 finish as a senior, Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers drafted him. Then he became one of the greatest, clutch pro quarterbacks ever.
His son Nick wears No. 5 for the Huskies and is 6 feet 3 and 203 pounds. That's an inch shorter than his dad's listed height in the NFL.
"I think they are both about 6-2, blonde hair, pretty lean guys. I don't know," Sarkisian said, when asked to compare the two. "(We're) talking about the greatest of all time. Jeez, the poor guy is just trying to play."
Nick Montana played at Oaks Christian High School in Southern California and traveled on all UW road trips last season while he was redshirting. He has appeared in four of the Huskies' last five games in relief of Price and completed 13 of 20 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"I really believe that he's improved, but the last month, specifically, have been his best practices," Sarkisian said. "He's playing faster. And part of that is when you get game experience and you realize how fast the game is, you get back out on the practice field and you say, 'OK, I've really got to turn it up, I've really got to speed up.'"
Montana noticed that most on his first college play, Oct. 15 against Colorado. Late in the Huskies' runaway win, Montana held onto the ball too long trying to pass, was sacked from behind and lost a fumble.
A little more than a month later, he is Washington's starter. And mom and dad are indeed proud - like any parents are of their Huskies, that is.
"Again, to get back to Joe and Jennifer, throughout this entire process they've been parents," Sarkisian said of Nick Montana's folks. "We treat them just like every other parent. There is nothing special about it. And that's how they are.
"You know, (senior defensive end) Everrette Thompson's parents were here today, too, watching practice."
QUICK HITS: Senior DT and run-stopper Alameda Ta'amu watched the 90-minute indoor practice while in a walking boot. "It was actually from the game. We just wanted to rest it, quite honestly," Sarkisian said. "He has rolled ankle and we just wanted to get the swelling out of it. He'll play." ... Sarkisian thinks WR James Johnson will be available at Oregon State in a limited role. He has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. ... OLB Garrett Gilliland is unlikely to play because of a stinger in his neck and shoulder. ... The forecast in Corvallis for Saturday afternoon calls for a 50-percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low 40s. Reser Stadium has FieldTurf synthetic grass.