By Brent Stecker
The Huskies know they’re in desperate need of a win. What they don’t know is who will be their quarterback on the road Saturday against Oregon State.
Senior Keith Price – who hasn’t missed a start in two years – was knocked out of Friday’s loss to UCLA with a shoulder injury, and though there is no structural damage, the Huskies (6-4 overall, 3-4 Pac-12) will have to wait until he can throw at Thursday’s practice to know if he’s in any shape to play against the Beavers (6-3, 4-3).
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said the team will prepare in practice for redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles to start Saturday against Oregon State until starter Keith Price can attempt to throw on Thursday. (AP)
Neither Price nor the team know exactly when his injury occurred, because it could have been either of two back-to-back hard hits he took late in the first half that did it.
“The swelling was immediate in there, restricted his movement, restricted his ability to lift his arm above his shoulder in a throwing motion,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “The swelling is reducing rapidly. His movement is much better (Monday) than it was the last couple of days, so we’ll see where he’s at Thursday. … I don’t count the guy out. He’s a fighter, a competitor.”
If Price can’t go, it would be a huge blow for the Huskies considering how well he’s played in 2013. He has a 64.8 completion percentage, 2,662 yards, 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions for a stellar 154.6 quarterback rating.
Because of the nature of the injury, though, Sarkisian said the only thing that would hold Price out is if the pain in his shoulder is intolerable.
In the meantime, the Huskies are going forward with redshirt freshman Cyler Miles taking the first-team reps at quarterback. Miles took over for Price in the second half against UCLA, completing 15 for 22 attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns, including a short scoring strike to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins that drew Washington within three points of the Bruins. He also threw interceptions on back-to-back attempts in the fourth quarter, however, allowing UCLA to seal the win.
“We’ll prep all week as if Cyler’s the starter, and he’s definitely capable of being that,” Sarkisian said. “I’m not gonna put (Price) on the field if he’s not healthy enough to play. He’s gonna have to show me Thursday that he’s able to make the throws that he’s capable of making. We’re gonna allow that shoulder some time to get some of the swelling out of there, the inflammation out of there so that he feels good on Thursday to go out and throw. And if he’s capable of doing that, then we’ll play him. If he’s not, we’ll go with Cyler.”
Plenty of frustration for Sark
While Husky fans may be reaching their wit’s end with the team sitting below .500 in Pac-12 play, Sarkisian said nobody is more disappointed than he is.
“We’re tired of being close, I have to admit to you,” he said of the loss to UCLA. “Nobody’s more frustrated than me, I can tell you that. You can ask our players that. I think we have a good football team. Because we’ve lost four games this year, to four top-20 teams, three of which are on the road. That’s not an excuse, because we’re good enough to go beat those teams – I know we are.”
Sarkisian said the up-and-down performances hint at a team that is capable of much more than what it has accomplished.
“We’re a good football team, and for how good we played a week ago (in a win over Cal), forget who the opponent was, but just the way we played the game a week ago as opposed to the way we started the game at UCLA, it’s really frustrating,” he said. “Gotta dig deep in our sports psychology to figure out why that’s occurring and what’s going on, because we’re capable of much more than what we’ve put out there, especially on the road.”
Oregon State at a glance
The Huskies are preparing for the nation’s No. 2 passing offense in Oregon State, which is led by lanky junior quarterback Sean Mannion.
Sarkisian’s teams are 1-1 against Mannion-led Oregon State teams.
“The challenge is if he’s standing back there patting the ball and staring at our secondary with time, he’s gonna throw it accurately,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a really accurate passer down the field, so we have to find a way to generate some pressure on him.”
Mannion has amassed 3,860 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on 67.8 percent passing this season, thanks in part to a number of capable receivers, including Brandon Cooks (100 receptions, 1,443 yards), Richard Mullaney (46 receptions, 702 yards) and Connor Hamlett (36 receptions, 329 yards).
“We know Cooks is gonna get his touches, we know Hamlett’s gonna get his touches, we know Mullaney’s gonna get his touches, but we can’t let Mannion stand there and pat the ball,” Sarksian said. “Coach (Mike) Riley is a tremendous offensive coach. They force you to defend down the field, 30, 40, 50 yards down the field, and when you put all of your emphasis there, then it’s the slow screen game to the back, to the tight ends, things of that nature. You have to defend it all.”
• The status of LT Micah Hatchie is uncertain due to a leg injury he suffered against UCLA.
“He’s still pretty sore. He got leg-whipped there in his lower leg in a goal-line scenario,” Sarksian said. “Micah had been playing really good football for us. … We need to get Micah healthy. As important as Keith is, Micah is really important to what we do.”
• The Pac-12 issued an apology to Washington for a hands-to-the-face penalty that wiped out a 38-yard touchdown pass from Price to freshman WR Damore’ea Stringfellow in the second quarter of the UCLA game. Sarkisian wasn’t too receptive Monday to the apology.
“What good is an apology? It’s not going to get me seven points back,” he said. “(But) the reality is that one play is not the reason why we lost that ballgame.”