Steve Sarkisian: Huskies' offensive problems aren't all Keith Price's fault
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian defended quarterback Keith Price on Monday, saying "we all need to get better" to help the Huskies' struggling passing game.
Seattle Times staff reporter
USC @ Washington, 4 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Ch. 13
Keith Price might be the most visible and important piece of Washington's offense.
But he is not the only one.
And Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian went out of his way during his Monday meeting with the media to make clear that while Price can play better, he is far from alone in blame for what has ailed Washington's passing game.
The Huskies will go into the game at 4 p.m. Saturday against No. 11 USC at CenturyLink Field ranked last in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency, a far cry from a year ago when Price set a slew of records.
Asked early in his news conference what areas of improvement are needed for Price, Sarkisian responded: "We all need to get better. We need to have a better game plan, we need to call better plays, we need to pass protect better, we need to run better routes, we need to catch the ball when we throw it to you and we need to make good, quick decisions at the quarterback position and be decisive and be accurate and play the game the way we're capable of playing."
Sarkisian later said he thinks Price — who told reporters Saturday after the 52-21 defeat against Oregon and again Monday that he is pressing — is being too hard on himself.
"It's not fair for him to do that to himself," Sarkisian said, noting that much of the personnel around Price has changed from a year ago, and that injuries earlier this season altered the offensive dynamic even more.
"(He's) probably put too much pressure on himself to try to make everybody else right around him, rather than keeping the focus on himself and allowing us to fix the things that are going on around him," Sarkisian said. "That's hopefully what we can get him back to. But to do that, everyone else has to do their jobs really well."
Sarkisian said getting the passing game working better will be a focus of practice this week.
Sarkisian said watching the film of the loss at Oregon did not dim the frustration he felt immediately afterward, when he lamented that the team's five turnovers — three in the first half — and lapses on defense let the game get away.
"There were some plays there that, in all three phases, that I thought really impacted the game right in the first quarter that we just haven't done all year. We haven't dropped a punt all year. We've had some blown coverages, but there were really two in particular that we really haven't done all year," Sarkisian said, also citing Price's interception that was returned for a touchdown. "Those three things just jumped out at me as frustrating. If we just played the way we had been playing, maybe it's a 7-0 game, we're into the second quarter, hey, let's keep playing. We had a good plan, and once we settled in, I thought we could've hung around and made that thing a much better ballgame into the fourth quarter."
The miscues began when freshman Marvin Hall attempted to catch a punt at the UW 32. He fumbled it without being hit. Oregon recovered at the 20 and scored two plays later to take a 7-0 lead and start a run of 35 points in less than 15 minutes.
Many observers might have wondered why Hall didn't just call for a fair catch. Sarkisian said that was the original plan but said he signaled to Hall that he did not have undue pressure and could try to return it if he wanted.
"We try to communicate with our returner to let him know if he's good or if he has pressure and to fair-catch it," Sarkisian said. "We let him know he was good, I did, so he tried to make the return. Their gunner got pretty close. You can see the shots of him on video, of his eyes coming off the ball and looking at the gunner that's close to him. In that scenario, if it's a fair catch, he never takes his eye off the ball, and I'd like to think he catches it."
Sarkisian took the blame for that play, saying, "I thought I tried too hard."
Signs encouraging for Seferian-Jenkins
Sarkisian said during his news conference that he did not know the status of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who did not play the second half against Oregon with a foot/ankle injury. However, he said a few hours later on his radio show that "all signs are pointing that he will be OK to go."
Sarkisian did not specify the injury but said, "We got encouraging news" about it, though he cautioned that because the team had not practiced yet this week, "We don't know for sure" if he will play.
• The school reported that as of Monday morning it had distributed 60,574 tickets for Saturday. That will make it UW's best-attended game of the season. The Huskies have averaged 54,868 in three home games at CenturyLink Field with a high of 55,941 against Stanford.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org