Whatever went wrong with the Huskies' quarterback this year, he'll have to fix it — or risk losing his job.
LAS VEGAS — The pass play was supposed to go to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. But quarterback Keith Price thought he saw Cody Bruns breaking open at the Boise State 32-yard line. He tried to win the game on this one play.
But Price didn’t see safety Jeremy Ioane, who was reading the quarterback’s eyes and anticipating the throw. Ioane broke on the pass and jumped in front of Bruns.
Price was late with the throw. Too many of his throws this season have been late, forced or inaccurate. And with 14 seconds left in Saturday’s compelling MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Ioane intercepted the final pass of Price’s disappointing season.
“Poor throw. Poor read. And I cost my team the ballgame,” Price said after Washington’s 28-26 loss to Boise State.
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And now, the Huskies enter a long offseason where this loss and the fourth-quarter collapse in the Apple Cup will linger like broken dreams for the next eight months.
And now, questions about Price’s future will hover over the program.
This was an inconsistent performance in an inconsistent season for Price. He finished 20 of 39 for 242 yards. He threw two picks. And he guaranteed that in this final spring of his college career, he will be competing for his job all over again.
After three seven-win seasons in a row, 2013 will be a show-me year for coach Steve Sarkisian, and he knows he can’t let his affection for Price jeopardize his own job security.
Price is going to have to re-earn the starting position.
Cyler Miles, who will be a redshirt freshman next season, and Troy Williams, who will enroll at Washington this coming quarter, will challenge Price. It will be the most intriguing competition of what should be an intense spring.
“I accept it. I accept it,” Price said. “But that’s not my concern. That’s Coach’s decision. If he decides that, I wouldn’t be mad at him. I can’t control that. I can only control myself. I’m not afraid of competition at all.”
Sarkisian’s long-term future at Washington could hinge on the results of that quarterback competition. Price will be the favorite, but he no longer is a lock.
“We have to get back to the basics of that position, and what this system is about and where to go with the football,” said Sarkisian. “How to stay with our progressions and how we read our coverages and not assume and not guess. Anticipate throws. Understand coverages and deliver the ball with trust.”
Something happened to Keith Price this season. He made too many bad decisions with his passes. He lost his confidence. He lost his megawatt smile. He lost his way during this curious season.
“You can put this one on me,” Price said. “I’m the one to blame.”
It wasn’t completely his fault. All season he played behind an inexperienced and beat-up offensive line. He was the victim of dropped passes, including a drop by Kasen Williams on a sure-shot touchdown in Saturday’s first quarter.
Price didn’t have the kind of options he had last season. He missed the departed Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar.
It was hoped Price would rediscover his game in the month between the Apple Cup and the MAACO Bowl. But this game looked much like so many others this year.
“I thought there were moments when Keith did some real good stuff for us,” Sarkisian said, “and he had other moments that weren’t great. The consistency factor in our system is what is imperative and will be a focal point of ours in the offseason.”
Too often in this loss, Price had plays to make and didn’t make them. Even in the running game, there were many opportunities on read-options where he could have kept the ball instead of handing it to Bishop Sankey. His poor decisions stalled drives.
“I’ve just got to keep working and keep preparing myself the way I have — and even harder,” Price said. “And I’ve got to get myself right mentally. I’m not worried about it. I know I can get back to playing the way I want to be playing.”
A year ago, Price had a magical game in the Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor. He outplayed Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. It was the culmination of a surprising and remarkable year.
He looked poised to lead Washington into the teeth of a difficult 2012 schedule. But something happened.
And now he’ll have to fight to keep his job.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org