CORVALLIS, Ore. — Who starts at quarterback for Washington on Saturday night against Oregon State will remain a mystery to the public until just before kickoff.
It also remains to be seen whether the road-weary Huskies can get on track away from home.
Winless in three conference road games this season, including the 41-31 defeat last week at No. 13 UCLA, the Huskies (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) will try to stave off another November swoon while perhaps turning the offense over to a first-time starter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles has been preparing all week as if he would take over for the injured Keith Price, but UW coach Steve Sarkisian said Friday he wouldn’t be announcing a starter publicly.
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The Huskies, it seems, could use any edge they can get as they face an Oregon State squad (6-4, 4-3) that, much like UW, is trying to salvage something of a once-promising season.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Reser Stadium for an ESPN2 broadcast.
The Beavers opened the season with a stunning defeat at home against lower-division Eastern Washington before rebounding with six consecutive victories to jump into the Top 25. A month ago, junior quarterback Sean Mannion, the nation’s leader in passing yards and touchdown passes, was on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy discussion, and receiver Brandin Cooks emerged as one of the most explosive players in the Pac-12.
Now, Oregon State’s roller-coaster season has taken another turn, with the Beavers on a three-game losing skid (to Stanford, USC and Arizona State).
The Huskies can relate, having jumped out to a 4-0 start and rising to No. 15 in the national rankings. They’re 2-4 since, with consecutive October defeats against Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.
“They are as hungry as we are,” Sarkisian said of the Beavers. “We’ve both been backed into a corner, and one of the two teams is going to come out fighting.”
The winner Saturday night stays in the hunt for a second-tier bowl game. The loser is looking at a likely fourth-place finish (or worse) in the Pac-12 North.
“It’s all how you respond to it,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “I made that comparison to our team about Washington. I said, ‘This is a good football team that, just kind of like us, hit a lot of good football teams (on the schedule). They had kind of a murderers’ row in there.”
Washington has a lot to prove on the road, having lost nine of 12 conference road games.
A defeat against Oregon State would assure the Huskies of their first losing season in conference play since Sarkisian’s first UW team went 4-5 in 2009.
“Inevitably,” Sarkisian said, “great teams have the ability to go on the road and beat really good football teams. … We just haven’t quite gotten there yet. We’ve played hard, we’ve had moments of really good football. Unfortunately, we haven’t put together a complete game of four quarters against good teams on the road. That’s what it takes.”
Miles showed flashes of what it takes during his first “real” test, as Sarkisian put it, against UCLA last week. He took over for Price after the senior quarterback went down with an injury in his throwing shoulder just before halftime.
Miles threw two touchdown passes and helped the Huskies, trailing by 20 in the first half, close to four points in the third quarter. UCLA pulled away to extend UW’s road woes.
Sarkisian said Price showed progress with his ailing shoulder during practice Thursday.
Price, limited by a leg injury at the time, didn’t start UW’s last game in Corvallis in 2011.
Nick Montana started that game, with Price coming off the bench in the fourth quarter of the Beavers’ 38-21 victory.
Sarkisian said he wasn’t opposed to a similar scenario Saturday, with Price — if he doesn’t start — potentially available in an emergency situation.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com.