For Keith Price, it was Apple Cup as a microcosm, a wild amalgam of frustration and joy, just like his Washington career. And it all churned into an emotional release in the end zone.
Price had just run untouched for a TD after a fake to Bishop Sankey, putting the game away once and for all with 2:08 left. And then Price stood in the “O” in “Washington,” doing a dance that was equal parts jubilation and relief.
“That was just me having fun,’’ he said. “I had a lot of fun, especially in the second half. It’s always fun when you win the game.”
The path to that 27-17 victory over Washington State was not always smooth for Price, but maybe that’s the only way it could have been for the fifth-year senior.
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His career has been far from a straight line since Steve Sarkisian, in his first act after getting the Washington job, had to convince Price to honor his commitment to a program fresh off an 0-12 season.
“At that time, he was questioning, well, is this the right thing’’ Sarkisian said. “When you’re getting recruited by the Oregons and Arizona States of the world and can go do that … He entrusted a lot in me. It’s been a long journey.”
That very thought occurred to Price as he trotted out to greet his family as part of the pregame Senior Day festivities. Having missed the previous game and a half because of injury, Price simply was not going to sit on the bench for his final Apple Cup, even though he acknowledged that his shoulder was maybe 80 to 85 percent healed.
Hugging his mom, Shaundra, and grandmother, Gail Manuel, who made the trip from Southern California, Price flashed upon the peaks and valleys that brought him to this point. But he refused to allow himself to be overcome by the moment. Not yet, anyway.
“I tried not to get too emotional,’’ he said. “But it was my last one, and it kind of hit me. I was holding back tears. I think I shed a couple afterwards. That was my thing, trying not to get too emotional. … We still needed to win the game.”
The victory would come, but not before a first half by Price that would try the patience of Huskies fans. Many of them were calling, via social media and various other outlets, for Sarkisian to turn to Cyler Miles, fresh off leading a 69-point offensive explosion against Oregon State.
Price lost a fumble. He threw an interception. It was hard not to flash back to the Apple Cup last year when the Huskies couldn’t hold an 18-point lead.
You could blame the shoulder Friday, but Price didn’t. He said he was simply too amped up by all the trappings of a rivalry game.
“I knew my shoulder was going to hurt,’’ he said. “It’s not just going to heal in two weeks. But it had no effect on the mistakes I made.”
Price instead lamented trying to do too much.
“I’m too old to be making those type of mistakes,’’ he said.
Sarkisian said he played out various personnel scenarios as the first half ended with the Huskies trailing 10-3. But he said he was sympathetic to Price’s emotional overload (“I don’t blame him for feeling a little antsy or out of sorts”) and gave Price the nod to start the second half.
Price took it from there. He played much savvier in the second half, and began hitting throws he had previously missed.
And after it was all over, and the Huskies were cavorting on the field, Price went off by himself for a moment of solitude and reflection.
“I just needed a moment to myself,’’ he said. “From last year to this year, I remember it was around the same time (when the Apple Cup game ended in Pullman). I remember my eyes were bloodshot red. I couldn’t believe what was going on that season. It seemed like I couldn’t catch a break. I worked so hard. Words can’t even describe what I felt.”
But Sarkisian tried to put into words how he felt about the arc of Price’s career.
“It’s been a great journey for Keith. I think the last five years of his life are going to shape him for the next 60 to 70 years of his life. He’s been through a lot. He’s been through a lot physically, he’s been through a lot emotionally.
“But every time, that guy shows he’s got tremendous character, and he stands tall and doesn’t waiver. He never points the finger. We’re proud that he’s our guy.”
|Price turns it around|
|Washington quarterback Keith Price struggled in the first half Friday against Washington State but was much better in the second half, leading the Huskies to a 27-17 victory over the Cougars. A look at Price’s passing numbers, by half:|
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.