Starting Spark? Price to Start Apple Cup
Nov. 21, 2011
King Country Metro has asked us to remind fans attending the Apple Cup that there is no free park & ride service, nor free Metro Bus service, to the UW-WSU game this Saturday. Regular bus service to and from CenturyLink Field will be running. For more information on transportation to the Apple Cup, click here.
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - That spark Keith Price gave the Huskies in the fourth quarter at Oregon State will have the chance to last far longer in the Apple Cup.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday his gutsy quarterback with 26 touchdown passes this season despite soreness in his knees, ankle and shoulder will start when Washington (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) and Washington State (4-7, 2-6) meet for the 104th time Saturday at 4:30 p.m. inside CenturyLink Field.
Price, who needs three touchdown throws to break Cody Pickett's school record from the 2001 season, sprained his left knee Nov. 12 at USC. He did not start last weekend at Oregon State. But with Washington down 31-14 in the fourth quarter, Price came off the bench for Nick Montana and ignited the Huskies with downfield throws during a sizzling, 85-yard touchdown drive.
Price's touchdown pass to Devin Aguilar and a recovery of a fumble on the ensuing kickoff put UW back in the game before mistakes ultimately ended the comeback in a 38-21 defeat.
"Keith will start. He came back, looked good (Sunday in treatment)," Sarkisian said as the coach's third Apple Cup week got going.
Monday's one-hour practice indoors proved again to Sarkisian the resiliency of his players. They were already showing signs they may be past the frustration in Corvallis.
"As they have for three years now, they showed up and practiced again today," Sarkisian said after the late-afternoon practice. "Just shows we have great senior leadership."
They have some in the redshirt-sophomore class, too.
Price entered the game in the fourth quarter at Oregon State but was into it far earlier than that. The yelling and spunk he had displayed while leading the nation in TD throws for much of the season's first half returned on the sidelines early at Reser Stadium.
And not just with the offense.
"He's a tremendous leader," Sarkisian, a former star quarterback at Brigham Young, said. "You know, we saw this early on -- obviously one of the big ones was from the Nebraska game -- but Keith is a competitive young man. He is tough physically. He is tough mentally. He can endure anything that gets thrown a quarterback's way.
"Something I thought was unique, to me, on Saturday ... Keith was actually in one of our defensive huddles during a time out, getting the defense fired up. That might have been the first time I've seen that here in three seasons, where an offensive player has gone into a defense's huddle to show that type of leadership. He's natural at it. The kids really respond to it. And that's one of the reasons we put him in. We needed a spark, and I think he provided that.
"Unfortunately, we just weren't able to capitalize on the opportunities that were presented to us."
Price began sparking the offense the moment he jogged into the huddle for the first time at Oregon State, with 11:21 remaining. He - and many others -- could feel the Huskies' instantaneous energy surge.
"Oh, yeah, I felt the change," Price said. "I told them, `All right! Let's go out and win this ball game!'
"I felt I could help the team. I felt good. And we needed a spark."
Sarkisian said team doctors had advised against starting Price at Oregon State to give him rest all last week on a knee he has sprained twice this season. That decision should pay off this week, as Price will likely be as healthy as he has been in a while for the Apple Cup.
Price feeling better comes at a good time for the Huskies, who have lost of their last five games and will be facing a Washington State defense that has improved markedly from last December's meeting. Chris Polk rushed for 284 of Washington's 571 total yards in Pullman last season to clinch UW's first bowl appearance since 2002.
Price was 5 for 9 passing with a touchdown and an interception in two drives at Oregon State.
"As we move into this week's game, I would imagine that without the wear and tear of banging on that thing, the swelling is back to normal and back to where his knee should look normal," Sarkisian said. "I think he will feel fresh. I think the knee and his confidence in the knee and his ability to make plays will not only affect his body but his mind."
The defense's starting lineup will also be getting some added playmaking ability against Washington State. Sarkisian named 340-plus pound Danny Shelton as the new starter at defensive tackle alongside Alameda Ta'amu.
Shelton, a true freshman who has played in all 11 games, was all over the field at Oregon State. He sprinted 15 yards downfield to recover a fumble teammate John Timu forced after a Beavers reception in the third quarter. Shelton also leaped to bat down two passes along the line of scrimmage. And he again rumbled as the massive lead blocker for Kevin Smith on what has been the Pac-12's leading kickoff-return unit for much of this season.
"I think Danny Shelton's earned the opportunity to start for us," Sarkisian said. "He's played really well the last two weeks, so we're giving Danny the opportunity."
QUICK HITS: Sarkisian reiterated the team believes starting LG Colin Tanigawa tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while pulling to block on a run play at Oregon State. The redshirt freshman got an MRI exam Monday with results due later. He started the first 11 games. Nick Wood replaced him Saturday. Sarkisian said he will also look at possibly moving Erik Kohler from starting at RT to LG and starting Micah Hatchie at RT against WSU. ... The coach thinks S Justin Glenn (concussion) and S Will Shamburger (neck and shoulder stinger) will be able to play in the Apple Cup, but likely in limited roles. Look for Nate Fellner to start at safety with Sean Parker. Sarkisian liked how Fellner played at Oregon State, saying he "felt his presence." ... This will be the second time the Huskies have played at the downtown home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. The 2005 opener against Air Force was there in what was considered a neutral-site game. UW will play this game and the entire 2012 home schedule at CenturyLink Field while Husky Stadium gets renovated.