SEATTLE — If there was any doubt about Keith Price’s ability to throw the ball down the field — and there was after last week’s game against Eastern Washington — it vanished on Washington’s opening possession against Hawaii on Saturday afternoon.
Price, a sophomore making just his third co
llegiate start, tossed a 30-yard strike to freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the first play from scrimmage, and then followed with a 47-yard bomb to Seferian-Jenkins on the next play, moving the ball to the Hawaii 2 and setting up Washington’s initial touchdown in an eventual 40-32 victory at Husky Stadium.
Against EWU last week, Price had no completions longer than 10 yards. This week he had six for 10 yards or more in the first quarter alone, and 11 for the game.
He finished with 18 completions in 25 attempts for 315 yards and four touchdowns. It was, said coach Steve Sarkisian, “a fantastic game.”
After Price suffered a mild right knee injury in last week’s game — he finished the game with a knee brace and wore another brace on Saturday — Sarkisian became conservative in his play calling. Or as he put it, “too cautious.”
“Maybe that was the wrong way to go,” Sarkisian said Saturday, “and I said to myself that I’m not going to do that again. If (Price) is healthy enough to play, he’s got to play in our offense. … And he sure responded today.”
“He’s a fantastic football player and a great leader,” added Seferian-Jenkins.
Washington’s offense was virtually flawless in the first quarter, rolling up 255 yards on the way to a 21-0 lead over Hawaii. Price, meanwhile, had 193 of those yards through the air, having completed all eight passes he attempted in the period.
Price did not throw his first incompletion until 12:30 remained in the second quarter.
The brisk start “was definitely a confidence booster,” he said. “Last week we didn’t play our best game and that was an emphasis (this week), ‘Let’s get the tempo going.’
“I played OK,” added Price, who seems uncomfortable talking about himself. Pressed to elaborate, he finally acknowledged, “I just did my job, throwing it to the open receivers.”
Price completed passes to nine different receivers, with wide receiver Devin Aguilar leading the way with five receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Seferian-Jenkins had three catches, adding a fourth-quarter TD pass of 14 yards from Price to go with his two early receptions.
The most obvious blemish of the day for Price came late in the second quarter. With Washington at the Hawaii 10 and looking to pad a 21-7 lead, he tried to find Aguilar near the goal line. Warriors safety Richard Torres leaped in front for an interception, and then raced 99 yards for a touchdown.
“I just didn’t see the safety,” Price said. “I have to look the safety off and make a better throw. Or a better decision. … But the safety did a good job. He read my eyes and made a great play on the ball.”
Otherwise, Saturday’s game was an opportunity for Price to show he has the arm strength and field savvy to be a skilled quarterback. Which is something Sarkisian believed in this first post-Jake Locker season.
“He can be as good as he wants to be,” Sarkisian said of Price. “He has all the game, and I’ve always known that. Sometimes for the general public it’s hard to see that because the kid’s only doing it at practice or he’s only had one or two starts. But he understands our offense extremely well … and he knows where the ball should be going the majority of the time.
“I thought he was spot-on 85 percent of the time today with where the ball should be going.”
There were some minor flaws, Sarkisian went on. Like late in the game when Price threw the ball out of bounds instead of just dropping to the turf as the Huskies were trying to use up clock.
“But he’ll learn from that,” Sarkisian said. “There’s a lot of little things where his decision making will only get better.
“But all in all, with his reading coverages, going to the right man and audible-izing plays at the line of scrimmage, I thought his decision making was good.”