By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
PULLMAN — A week ago, Keith Price made the play. A week ago, the throw was perfect and the result was a huge gain. A week ago, Price’s decision to not give up on a play and make something out of nothing was lauded and praised.
But that was a week ago.
On Friday, Price tried to make the same play. This time the throw was off and the result was a huge gain — for Washington State. This time the decision to find something when there really was nothing will be questioned by Husky fans, the Husky coaching staff and Price himself.
Two decisions, two very different results and two plays that typified the up-and-down junior season the Huskies’ quarterback has experienced.
On the first play of overtime, Price dropped back to pass and felt pressure from all sides — much like he had all afternoon. With Washington State defensive end Logan Mayes grabbing him around the legs and a sack appearing likely, Price saw running back Bishop Sankey flash open out of the corner of his eye.
A week ago against Colorado, Price was in a similar predicament and flipped the ball to Sankey as he was going down. The play resulted in a 25-yard gain and led to a touchdown.
Price tried to replicate the play Friday. But the ball floated in the air and was grabbed by nose tackle Toni Pole. And while the 277-pound Pole didn’t quite make the end zone after rumbling 60 yards, the turnover cost Washington its first and only possession in the overtime.
The Cougars ended the game minutes later with a 27-yard Andrew Furney field goal.
“It was a play that I should have made, or I should have just taken the sack to live to see another day,” Price said. “I didn’t have enough mustard on the ball and that’s why it sailed. It’s a tough to play make, but I expect myself to make that play.”
In almost every situation, lost yards are better than a lost possession. “I should have been smarter with the ball,” Price said.
Price didn’t lose the 2012 Apple Cup with that interception. There were plenty of reasons for WSU’s stunning 31-28 victory. But Price held himself accountable. “I have to make better decisions,” he said, his voice trailing off.
It’s not the first time he said it. It’s not the first time he’s had to own up to a less-than-stellar performance this season. Price finished with 194 yards passing and two touchdowns — good, but not great numbers.
He made it all look so easy last season, completing 242 of his 362 passes for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns. His completion percentage of 66.9 and his pass efficiency-rating of 161.09 were school records.
But this season hasn’t been easy. It’s been difficult. He’s missed throws, turned the ball over and just looked out of sorts.
The numbers are down — 243-for-393 (61.8 percent) for 2,484 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and coughed up several fumbles.
A year ago, he was a hero. Now there are doubters. Such is the fickle life of a quarterback.
“I don’t think I’m any worse of a quarterback than I was last year,” he said. “I’m still confident. I still believe I’m one of the best. Seasons like this happen. I just can’t get too high on myself or too down on myself. I just have to play within the system and within me.”
But the play will haunt him. There is no 24-hour rule when it comes to regrettable decisions.
“This is how a lot of people judge you — off of how you are on the field,” he said. “It hurts. It hurts, man. … Losses, I don’t handle them very well. A lot of times I don’t even look at my phone after we lose.”