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Sarkisian says trust has been key to Price’s turnaround

By Brady Henderson

Back in October, following a blowout loss to Arizona, Keith Price’s season-long slump prompted a reporter to ask coach Steve Sarkisian whether he had any thoughts about making a change at quarterback.

Sarkisian didn’t make a change, of course, but Price did.

For as dominant as the Huskies defense has been while holding opponents to an average of 12 points during a four-game winning streak, Price’s improvement is another reason why Washington sits at 7-4 heading into Friday’s Apple Cup.

Sarkisian, a guest on “Brock and Salk” on Tuesday, praised his junior quarterback not only for his turnaround but for how he handled the struggles he went through while adjusting to a new offensive line and a new set of receivers.

Keith Price has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions during the Huskies’ four-game winning streak. (AP)

“I thought Keith Price showed a great deal of leadership for us this season up to this point because he could have very easily came out and said, ‘I wish I got better protection’ or ‘I wish I knew exactly what our receivers were doing,'” Sarkisian said.

“Never once did he do that. Every time it was about him and what he needs to do better.”

What Price needed to do better, according to Sarkisian, was trust his offensive teammates. That he hadn’t been doing so was understandable given all the new faces Price was working with.

Gone to the NFL were four key offensive starters who helped Price set single-season school records in 2011 – receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, left tackle Senio Kelemete and running back Chris Polk.

Injuries took a further toll. Lost were receiver James Johnson, running backs Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, along with offensive linemen Colin Porter, Erik Kohler and Colin Tanigawa.

“Now he’s sitting with a veteran center in Drew Schaefer, a second-year wideout in Kasen Williams, a second-year tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and the rest of them are brand-new guys,” Sarkisian said. “And obviously, the way the season started out, we were a bit off. We were a bit off from a protection standpoint, we were a bit off with the execution in the passing game, our running game faltered. We just weren’t where we needed to be when you lose Deontae Cooper, then you lose Jesse Callier and Bishop [Sankey] is trying to find his way.

“And I think Keith put way too much on himself because he did lack a little trust in what was all going on around him.”

Price threw eight touchdowns and eight interceptions over Washington’s first seven games. In the seventh game – a 52-17 loss to Arizona – Price was picked off twice and fumbled once, bringing his turnover total to 10 over the past three games, all losses.

That’s when the turnaround started.

In the Huskies’ four-game winning streak, Price has thrown eight touchdowns to only two interceptions while completing better than 66 percent of his passes, up from just over 60 percent during the first seven games. Five of those eight touchdown passes came in Saturday’s 38-3 win over Colorado, which set a new career high.

Washington has scored at least 20 points in those four games, and their 38 against Colorado were the second-most they’ve scored this season.

Sarkisian rattled off a list of offensive players who have emerged this season and proven to be worthy of Price’s trust. Among them were Williams, Seferian-Jenkins, Sankey and the four young offensive linemen.

“So in return, Keith is taking the load off himself some and allowing those guys to make their plays,” Sarkisian said, “and they’re doing it for him.”