UW scored 17 points in the third quarter, and 14 in the fourth. Keith Price threw touchdowns to five different receivers, tying a school record.
BOULDER, Colo. — It was a game that mirrored the season — frustrating first half, redemptive second.
For both the Washington Huskies and their junior quarterback, Keith Price.
Price tied a school record with five touchdown passes Saturday as the Huskies beat beleaguered Colorado 38-3 at Folsom Field.
Four touchdowns came in the second half after the UW offense stumbled and bumbled its way through the first 30 minutes. The Huskies led only 7-0 at halftime against a Colorado defense that ranks among the worst in the nation.
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Washington scored 17 points in the third quarter, and 14 in the fourth, with Price throwing touchdowns to five different receivers in tying a record set in 1973 by Chris Rowland against California and tied in 2010 by Jake Locker against Oregon State.
The onslaught came after UW coach Steve Sarkisian left the field at halftime steaming, upset with an offense that had scored just one touchdown on five possessions inside CU territory.
“It was maybe a little bit of tough love in the locker room at halftime,” Sarkisian said. “But we challenged these guys at halftime about the standard and expectation that they have set, it’s not something that we are still trying to get to. They have set a standard of play that is acceptable around here, and what we were doing in the first half, and not just Keith, wasn’t acceptable, and I think he responded in the second half and I thought the rest of the unit responded.”
Well enough to lift UW to its fourth consecutive victory and a 7-4 record that already ties the win total of the past two years with two games left — the Apple Cup on Friday in Pullman and a bowl game. It’s just the second four-game winning streak for UW since 2001 and came on the heels of a 3-4 start that briefly had the Huskies’ season teetering precariously.
Sarkisian now, though, is talking openly about putting together what would be UW’s best season since it won the Rose Bowl in 2000 if the Huskies can win out.
“We talked about the goal is to get to 9-4 this season and we couldn’t get to it without getting to No. 7,” he said.
The outcome never seemed in doubt as the Huskies didn’t allow Colorado past midfield in the first half in holding an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since the 2009 Apple Cup.
But the score remained uncomfortably close early as the UW offense stammered through the first half. Price also was struggling, and at one point simply missed a wide-open Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the end zone — the kind of play Price acknowledges has happened a bit too often this season as he has struggled at times to replicate his success of 2011. The only saving grace of the first half was a 3-yard Price touchdown pass to fifth-year senior Cody Bruns — the first touchdown reception of his career.
But Price came into the game feeling as if he’s begun to turn things around, having thrown three touchdowns and just one interception the past two weeks. And it was that version of Price that returned in the second half as he threw two touchdowns in the first six minutes to finally give the Huskies a comfortable lead.
“We knew that they were going to come in and play hard, and I think they played harder than us for a minute,” Price said. “But we just needed to settle in, and then we settled in and we got into a good rhythm. … I know I needed to get into a better rhythm in the second half, and we did that.”
Price’s jump-start in the second half got an assist from an amazing play by receiver Kevin Smith after the Huskies were forced to punt on their first possession of the third quarter. The punt bounced off the shoulder of Colorado’s Nelson Spruce and appeared headed out of bounds before Smith leapt and threw the ball back into the field, where it was eventually recovered by UW’s Will Shamburger at the 35. Two plays later, Price threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kasen Williams, and the onslaught was on.
On UW’s next possession, following a Colorado fumble, Price tossed a short pass that Kendyl Taylor turned into a 23-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Price read a blitz and as he took a hard hit, he lofted a pass into the back of the end zone to an uncovered Seferian-Jenkins. He then tied the school record with an 18-yard TD to Jaydon Mickens on a fourth-and-six.
Colorado fell to 1-10 in another performance that will add to its dubious résumé as one of the worst teams in recent conference history. But Sarkisian said the performance accurately portrayed the way Price has rebounded from his early travails.
“He’s sure playing pretty good football,” Sarkisian said. “I have seen his play over the last month just progress and get better and better and better at the right time — you want to be playing good late in the year.”
Price said he didn’t know of his record day until told by reporters, calling it an honor. He also said he always thought such a day was possible, even through all of the dark moments earlier this season.
“I told you guys that it was coming and that I was going to keep on grinding and keep on preparing the way I have been,” he said. “Now I am starting to get the results that I want.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta