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Originally published Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Nick Montana learns, waits as UW backup quarterback

With the Huskies on a bye and Keith Price nursing injuries, Nick Montana has handled most of the duties this week

Seattle Times staff reporter

Oct. 15

Colorado @ UW, 12:30 p.m., ROOT Sports

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Nick Montana is still waiting to get on the field as a Washington Husky.

Wednesday, though, he felt like he had played an entire game, handling much of the duties at quarterback in practice with the Huskies off this weekend and Keith Price resting his sore knees and ankle.

Noting all the extra passes he had to make, which resulted in his back tightening up a little bit, Montana said with a smile that "I was gassed. I can't wait for Keith to get back."

And if you're waiting for any sign of discontent from Montana about his role with the Huskies, none is forthcoming.

Montana stated what should be obvious — he's more than eager to finally step on the field.

"Everyone is anxious (to play)," he said. "It's what you came here to do, it's what I came here to do is play. So everyone wants to get out there."

But he said he also understands and accepts his current role as the backup.

"It's a little tough, but still just competing in practice and just always keeping yourself ready — that just motivates me," he said. "It's not too hard. Backups, you are pretty close to being in so you've always got to be ready."

This week was about getting him that much more prepared should his number be called any time soon.

The Huskies practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and will now be off through the weekend, with coaches hitting the road recruiting.

With Price having suffered sprains to both knees and a sprained ankle in the first five games, he was essentially given this week off, doing some throwing but no work during team drills.

Price said the week off has been good.

"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "I think it's going to pay off. I'm still a little sore but I'll be ready to go next week."

Asked what's sore, he said: "Probably my ankle right now, my knees are good right now. My knees feel better than since we started (the season)."

His rest time, however, left running the No. 1 offense to Montana, as well as the No. 2 unit during a half-hour scrimmage of the younger players that concluded Wednesday's practice.

Montana led two scoring drives during the scrimmage, capping what UW coach Steve Sarkisian said was a good week.

"I thought he played with confidence," Sarkisian said. "A real sense of urgency, which is important to have. Sometimes when you're a backup you have the tendency to go through the motions, and I didn't think Nick did that at all this week. I thought he had a real nice sense of urgency, played with a purpose and had a nice week."

Asked the areas of improvement for Montana, Sarkisian said: "It's just the speed and quickness of it all, especially in the quick game, playing fast and urgent. I've seen him improve in that, definitely."

Montana, son of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, was a touted recruit in Sarkisian's first full recruiting class in 2010, assumed by many at the time as a likely successor to Jake Locker. Instead, Price won the job in the spring and is now on pace to rewrite UW's record book this year, with two years of eligibility remaining after this season.

Sarkisian, though, said he's seen no evidence of disappointment from Montana in his role as the backup to Price, who has emerged as one of the surprise players this season, throwing for 17 touchdowns, second-most in the nation.

"He's been great," Sarkisian said. "He's been awesome. He's a great kid."

Center Drew Schaefer said Montana has impressed teammates with his attitude.

"I think he still treats every single week coming in Monday like it's open competition," Schaefer said.

Sarkisian has said often that there will come a time this season when the Huskies will need Montana even if it hasn't happened yet — Price has taken every snap (other than a few for Jesse Callier out of the wildcat).

Montana promises he'll be ready when that time comes, and that until then, he'll be happy going along for the ride.

"It's good," he said. "We are going good, the team is doing good, you can't complain. I'm having a great time. It's been crazy, we are 4-1, so it can't be too bad."

NOTES

• Sarkisian ran Wednesday's practice without any of his full-time assistants, who were all already on the road recruiting during what is UW's only bye week of the season. "I missed them," he said with a laugh. "I had to work too hard today."

He said he wanted to send the assistants out early to "maximize our days (recruiting). We only got one bye this year, and when you've only got one bye I felt like it was imperative to get out Wednesday — to make sure we were in high schools Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and if there are games on Saturday (to be at) games on Saturday. That was the reason for it: just to maximize our time this week on the road."

• Sarkisian said Johri Fogerson's knee surgery last Friday went well and that Hau'oli Jamora will have surgery this Friday on his knee.

Kasen Williams, who sprained an ankle at Utah, watched practice with his foot in a boot. But Sarkisian said it's not a big deal, that the ankle is "just sore. We are taking care of it."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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