By Tim Booth Associated Press
SEATTLE — Washington quarterback Keith Price is probably more anxious than most to get another shot at the Cougars this week considering the final pass he threw against Washington State was a costly interception that capped the biggest collapse in Apple Cup history.
Right now, Price isn’t even the Huskies starter. But he might be by the time Friday rolls around.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday he is moving forward with preparing redshirt freshman Cyler Miles to start on Friday against the Cougars in the 106th edition of the state rivalry, but with the caveat that if Price continues to improve from an injured shoulder he could make the start in the final home game of his career.
Price was injured late in the first half of Washington’s loss at UCLA on Nov. 15. He never threw a ball in practice until last Thursday and, despite a strong pregame throwing session, Price ended up being a spectator on Saturday against Oregon State.
“The way we’ll do it is just like last week. We’ll prepare Cyler to be the starter and if Keith is physically able to go to where we feel confident and comfortable with what he is able to do, then Keith will be able to step in and execute the game plan,” Sarkisian said. “Keith’s been in this system for five years now. Obviously up-tempo this year is different, but the plays are the same so he can come in and perform. And he was very close. He was probably ready to go Saturday night, but I felt better about our team with Cyler’s preparation and Cyler being the guy this past Saturday.”
Washington (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) ended up not needing Price, or a big game from Miles in his first college start. The Huskies rushed for 530 yards and seven touchdowns in a 69-27 blowout of Oregon State. It was the second-most yards rushing in school history, behind the 559 yards the Huskies had in 1996 against San Jose State. The 69 points were the most since 1944 and only the second time three running backs rushed for at least 100 yards.
For his part, Miles was solid against the Beavers. Miles completed 13 of 24 passes for 162 yards, one touchdown and, most importantly, did not commit a turnover. Miles also ran seven times for 26 yards.
“It’s a very comforting situation to be in to have two guys who can go in and win Pac-12 football games,” Sarkisian said. “Both of them are capable of going out and playing well.”
Price is already ahead in his recovery from where he was a week ago. Sarkisian said Price threw during practice on Monday morning, but then quickly emphasized that he’s not 100 percent. Price was injured against the Bruins when he was hit on consecutive plays late in the second quarter. He attempted to throw on the sideline, but was in too much pain to return.
An MRI last week showed no structural damage to the shoulder.
“He’s in much better shape this week than he was last week. He’s not 100 percent. He’s not fully recovered. That’s very clear,” Sarkisian said. “It’s just a matter of as we get closer to the game is he in a position to go out and perform … against a good team and a good defense.”
Price’s Apple Cup memories are mixed. As a sophomore, he was outstanding in a 38-21 Washington win where Price threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns. That was followed by last year’s collapse during which the Huskies blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead and were forced to overtime by the Cougars. On the first play of the extra session, Price tried to force a pass and was intercepted by Kalafitoni Pole. Washington State then got a 27-yard field goal from Andrew Furney for the 31-28 win that set off a wild celebration in Pullman.
“It still leaves a bad taste in all of our mouths,” Sarkisian said.