By Brent Stecker
Washington’s 41-31 loss to No. 13 UCLA on Friday was troublesome for many reasons, but one reason stands well above among them all.
That would be the loss of senior quarterback Keith Price, who left with an injury and is now uncertain to return this season. So with that said, it’s time to flip the script with three things, because Price’s absence and what it means to Washington’s season is now the most pressing issue for the Huskies.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Will Keith Price return?
The Huskies were dealt a gigantic blow when Price left the game with a shoulder injury late in the first half. Price has been the heart and soul of the team, and he was approaching the numbers of his stellar sophomore year before the injury. But reports Saturday say Price is out indefinitely, which does not bode well for a season that has just two Pac-12 games remaining.
2. How much closer would Friday’s game have been if Price wasn’t injured?
It may not have been that much closer, as redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles threw for two touchdowns and drew the Huskies within three points after a 1-yard scoring strike to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to open the third quarter. But if Price was still in the game in the fourth quarter, one would think that with his experience, he wouldn’t throw interceptions on back-to-back attempts like Miles did to seal the win for UCLA.
3. What are the Huskies without Price?
If Price doesn’t return, can the Huskies finish out with back-to-back wins over Oregon State and Washington State? They likely would have been favorites in both games before Price’s injury, but with Miles taking over as the starting quarterback, Washington’s offense will likely take a hit in production simply because the receivers aren’t as familiar with him. That in turn will allow defenses to key in more on running back Bishop Sankey, who already gets plenty of attention due to his typical 25-plus carries each game. And when it comes to confidence, Miles’ interceptions couldn’t have helped matters for himself or his fellow offensive players.
Three things we learned:
1. Myles Jack is no fluke.
As a matter of fact, the UCLA linebacker/running back and Bellevue product is a red-zone destroyer. In his second game playing offense for the Bruins, the true freshman racked up four touchdowns on the ground, a remarkable accomplishment for a player who still considers himself a linebacker first. His 59 yards on 13 carries may not be as eye-popping as his six-carry, 120-yard performance last week against Arizona, but the four scores cemented his status as a big-time college football force.
2. Washington’s defense is good, but it isn’t great.
UCLA became the fourth team to eclipse the 30-point mark against Washington, and it just so happens that the Huskies have lost all four of those games. While the defense has no problem holding down teams like Cal, Colorado and Arizona, the Oregons, Arizona States and UCLAs of the world don’t have much trouble finding the end zone against Washington. The flip side of the equation is that the Huskies’ offense is also good but not great, and when the defense allows 30 points or more, it can’t keep up in the scoring department.
3. The Huskies aren’t there yet.
It’s almost a full five seasons into the Steve Sarkisian era, and the Huskies have lost four times in seven games to Pac-12 opponents. Any hopes of a return to the top 25 rankings are hanging by a thread at best. An eight-win regular season is the best-case scenario now, and that would be just a one-win improvement from Sarkisian’s previous personal record. Yes, Sark has resurrected the program, but only to a degree. Washington is still a middling Pac-12 team, and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that it will improve past that any time soon.