Return home is anything but nice for Washington quarterback Keith Price
Saturday wasn't the storybook homecoming for Keith Price that a year ago had been. In 2010, he came in for one play and threw a touchdown...
Seattle Times staff reporter
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LOS ANGELES — Saturday wasn't the storybook homecoming for Keith Price that a year ago had been.
In 2010, he came in for one play and threw a touchdown pass, helping Washington beat USC.
Saturday, the native of nearby Compton didn't find the end zone for the first time this season as the Huskies were blasted by the Trojans 40-17.
But despite the disappointing day, the Huskies practically had to drag Price off the field kicking and screaming when they decided to take him out midway through the third quarter after he suffered injuries to both knees.
"They didn't let me back in," said Price, who kicked a garbage can in frustration after he realized he would be unable to continue. "I wanted to get back in and I was ready to get back in. But they thought it was best for me to stay out."
USC led 37-10 when Price was pulled, and UW coach Steve Sarkisian said "I just felt like where the game was at and what was happening, it was time to put (Nick Montana) in."
Price vowed he will play this week, and Sarkisian said "he's sore ... we don't think it's serious."
Price limped off the field twice, suffering injuries to both knees. The specific nature of the injuries wasn't clear, and Price said more would be known Monday, though he insisted he'd be able to play this week against Oregon State.
"I just got to find a way to finish games," he said.
Price has had knee and ankle issues all season.
Those injuries have prevented Price from using his mobility, and teams of late have come after him hard, daring him to try to escape the pocket.
The injuries, he said, are "definitely holding me down a little bit."
Price was among the nation's leaders in touchdown passes the first half of the season. But he has thrown just four in the last four games combined after throwing three or more in each of the first six.
"I've just got to trust my line and stay in the pocket a little longer," said Price, who was sacked four times. "And deliver balls and know I'm going to get hit. I think there was a play or two where I left the pocket kind of early. I just have to stay there and deliver when my team needs me to."
Special teams take a big step back
The Huskies have been able to tout largely improved special teams most of the season. But Saturday was an exception as the Trojans tipped the game heavily with two special-teams plays — a fake punt midway through the second quarter that resulted in a 35-yard gain and led to a touchdown, and a kickoff return for another touchdown to open the second half.
The fake punt might have been most critical as USC led 7-3 and was lined up to punt midway through the second quarter from its 45. But punter Kyle Negrete took off running after receiving the snap, following his line and a huge hole down to the UW 20 before being tackled by Anthony Gobern — Negrete was supposed to slide but said he didn't want to.
"I haven't seen green grass like that since high school," he said.
Sarkisian said of the play that "the guys responsible for the fake didn't see it, didn't execute."
Said Gobern: "I think what happened was we just had a guy that didn't pick up his man. We practiced that fake punt and you were supposed to pick up a certain guy and somebody just missed him. I just had to come down and do the best I could. ... We were setting up our return like we normally do, we just didn't get our fake checks down and it only takes one guy to not get it to lead to a big play like that."
A touchdown that followed put USC up 14-3 and the game was never really in doubt again.
Marqise Lee then returned the opening kickoff of the second half 88 yards to put the Trojans ahead 30-3.
"The guy ran into a pile," Sarkisian said. "We were all around him, and he went around us. From what I could tell, that's what it looked like. I was really surprised we didn't tackle him."
Overturned call leads to safety
If UW had a last gasp for hope, it came when tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught an apparent 23-yard pass from Price in the second quarter with the Trojans ahead 14-3. Instead, after a review it was ruled that he did not have possession and the ball returned to the 10-yard-line.
"I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play," Sarkisian said. "That's part of the reason why we kind of hurried up to the ball, but we couldn't get the ball snapped."
Said Seferian-Jenkins: "They said no catch (so) no catch. You've got to hold on to the ball."
On the next play, a shotgun snap from center Drew Schaefer was high and Price couldn't control it, falling on it in the end zone for a safety. UW was lined up in a pistol formation on the play (meaning a running back directly behind Price) though Price said that didn't have an impact.
"The ball kind of tipped my hand," he said. "I should have grabbed it with two hands. I would have went up with two hands and try to make a play. Then I got the ball and tried to throw it out, but it was too late."
Said Sarkisian: "The shotgun snaps have been concerning for me for three weeks now, and we touched on it all week in practice that it needed to change or something like that would happen, and it finally got us. So hopefully that changes things."
Offensive line changes coming?
UW has allowed 13 sacks in two weeks as the offensive line has struggled against two aggressive defenses. Sarkisian had said during the week there might be changes, but the Huskies went with the same five that has started all year. Sarkisian said the Huskies will continue to explore options to improve the play up front. "We're going to consider it (changes) even more this week," he said.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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