"Everything is going to be all right," Washington quarterback Keith Price says of the Huskies' sluggish start.
Coach Steve Sarkisian and quarterback Keith Price talk often.
But their meeting Monday, Price said, “was different.”
On this Monday, following Washington’s 41-3 dismantling at the hands of Louisiana State, their conversation lasted 45 minutes.
Topic A was Price’s evident frustration over a season that’s off to a sluggish start that no one imagined. After two games last year, Price already had thrown seven touchdown passes on his way to an eventual school-record 33. Through two games this year, he has thrown for one.
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And as the final minutes wound down Saturday in Baton Rouge, Price was left with nothing to do but stew on the sideline, his trademark smile gone, replaced by a face filled with frustration.
As Sarkisian and Price talked Monday, the coach let his quarterback know he needed to not play with the weight of the world (or even just the Huskies) on his shoulders.
“I want 17 to worry about 17, and not have to try to take responsibility for everybody and allow us coaches to do a lot of that,” Sarkisian said, referring to Price’s uniform number.
Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau had a similar message when he met with Price.
“When you lose in the fashion that we did, it’s never fun,” Kiesau said. “We just have to coach him up and really get to him about his body language and his presence and that he’s the leader on the field and that guys are going to look up to him, and he’ll be fine. I have no doubt. He cares so much, it’s so important to him and sometimes it shows and that’s natural. We’ve just got to be able to hone that in a little bit.”
Price said he left the meeting with Sarkisian feeling things are about to get better.
“I’ve just got to stick to what I’m doing and make sure I don’t get too down or get too high on myself.”
Playing Portland State, a member of the FCS Big Sky Conference, on Saturday should help. The Vikings have struggled so much on defense that Wednesday they fired defensive coordinator Eric Jackson.
“Real good to be home,” Price said.
Anywhere other than Baton Rouge, where UW was held without a touchdown for the first time in a game Price started. It also was the first time he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, going 17 for 36 for just 157 yards. The performance came on the heels of what Price had said was one of his worst games in the opener against San Diego State, when he was 25 of 35 but for just 222 yards and a lone touchdown.
“Oh man, it was rough, especially when you expect to win,” Price said of the LSU game. “I thought that we had a fair shot.”
But last year Price had a stable line in front of him. This season he has one that has been riddled by injuries since the spring. And last year he had proven receivers to throw to. This year he has a young and untested group still finding its way. And he had Chris Polk last year to provide a reliable running game and keep defenses honest. This year the Huskies have a ground attack that so far has done little.
The result is that too often Price has been left running for his life in the face of oncoming rushers. And, he admits, trying too hard to make plays out of nothing.
“I think the natural thing is when the offense is not going the way that I expect it to go is me trying to push too hard,” he said. “I just need to settle down and let the offense work for me.”
An example, he said, was an interception he threw on fourth down in the third quarter at LSU.
“I think if the circumstances were a little different I probably would have thrown the ball away,” he said. “But we were down and I was trying to make a play.”
Price said he’s a better quarterback than he was last year, even if he knows there also has been some criticism.
“Oh man, it (criticism) comes with the territory,” he said. “I knew what I was getting into when I was 8 years old playing this position.”
But he also knows the fact he is now a leader of the team and that means his role has changed, and that’s one reason why the coaches want him to rein in his frustration. As one of the veterans, part of his role now is to mentor and groom players.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and I’m not using that as an excuse because once you are on the field it doesn’t really matter what year you are,” Price said. “But it’s just getting in a rhythm with them and them getting to believing in themselves and being more detailed on their route-running and into their big-play ability that they are making out here (at practice). They’ve just got to understand this is just like practice in a game and just don’t change.
And by the time his session with the media ended Wednesday, his trademark smile had returned.
“Everything,” Price said “is going to be all right.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org