SEATTLE – Keith Price is often his own worst critic. It’s part of the humble nature that has quickly endeared the Washington quarterback to so many fans.
So, when he came out following the Huskies’ season-opening win over San Diego State and chastised himself despite completing a career-high 25 passes and throwing for a touchdown, it seemed natural.
“That’s what makes 17 special,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He’s got a standard he holds himself to. I’ve seen him better than he was Saturday night and I will see him better than he was Saturday night. And that’s just what he expects of himself.”
Price will need to be at his best if the Huskies (1-0) are to have any shot at pulling an upset Saturday night against No. 3 LSU (1-0) and the Tigers’ standout defense. But if his past performances on big stages are any indication, the Huskies might just get a dynamic night from their junior quarterback.
Of course, those previous efforts came last season when Price was playing behind a settled offensive line with an experienced running back in Chris Polk. That’s not the case this week when sophomore running back Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep) will make his first career start and the offensive line is being shuffled because of injuries.
Going into Tiger Stadium for a night game against LSU might be Price’s biggest challenge yet.
“Extremely focused this week and my attention to detail has to be better,” Price said. “I’m not satisfied with last week, as you guys all know. I have to play better for our team to play better. My team feeds off me and if my energy level isn’t high our team energy isn’t high. We’ll be ready to rock. Trust me.”
Since taking over as the Huskies starting quarterback, some of Price’s finest performances have come against the biggest foes. In Week 3 of last season at Nebraska, Price threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns despite hobbling on a sore knee. A week later it was three more touchdown tosses against California and three more a week after that at Utah.
But the capper to Price’s season came in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor. With most of the focus on Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, Price got the better of the quarterback matchup, even if it didn’t translate to a Washington victory.
Price completed 23 of 37 passes for a career-high 438 yards and touchdown throws of 12, 1, 80 and 13 yards. And if that wasn’t enough, Price added touchdown runs of 5, 15 and 8 yards. He accounted in some form for all seven Washington touchdowns in the 67-56 loss.
Does Price need to have the same type of dynamic performance if the Huskies are going to pull their first upset of an AP Top 10 team since beating then-No. 3 USC early in the 2009 season? Most likely.
But if Price does it, he’ll be carrying even more of the load than before.
Throughout his sophomore season, Price always had the churning legs of Polk, the No. 2 all-time rusher in Washington history, that he could turn to in order to create offensive balance. With Polk leaving early for the NFL, that responsibility was expected to fall on the shoulders of junior Jesse Callier and Sankey, who were to split time and carries in the backfield.
That changed last Saturday when Callier went down in the open field after making an awkward plant with his right leg. An MRI revealed a torn ACL that ended Callier’s season. Now it’s up to Sankey and a host of unproven freshmen to try to provide a running threat and keep some heat off Price.
LSU’s defensive line will also be trying to make up for getting zero sacks in last week’s win over North Texas, which went with max protection to try to keep the Tigers pass rush at bay.
“They love passing the ball,” LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. “They’re a pass first-team … Our safeties and corners are going to have to be disciplined this week and play assignments and not try to jump as many balls as they normally would.”
LSU coach Les Miles said there is “no question” Price’s passing ability will pose a tough test for a secondary that includes true freshman Jalen Mills starting at the cornerback spot.
In passing situations, Mills moves to nickel back and redshirt freshman Jalen Collins joins the secondary.
“They have a very, very talented quarterback,” Miles said. “Their passing attack is very, very good and they can run it, too.”