Keith Price wins early rounds of QB bout with Robert Griffin III | Alamo Bowl notebook
In the days leading up to the Alamo Bowl, the Washington Huskies would say only that quarterback Keith Price looked a little better, having...
Seattle Times staff reporter
SAN ANTONIO — In the days leading up to the Alamo Bowl, the Washington Huskies would say only that quarterback Keith Price looked a little better, having had more than a month to rest nagging knee and ankle injuries.
But it was obvious that the Price was as right as he has been all season as he sliced and diced the Baylor defense throughout the Alamo Bowl. It didn't prove enough for UW to overcome its porous defense as the Bears won 67-56. But the game left everyone singing the praises of Price, who accounted for seven touchdowns — four passing and three rushing — and almost upstaged the performance of the Bears' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
"I thought he was awesome tonight," said Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian. "I think we'll have a hard time the rest of the bowl season to see another quarterback play better than Keith played tonight. ... I was happy for him that he got to play the style of football that I know he's capable of playing, when he can really utilize his legs as well as throwing."
Price's 438 passing yards tied Cody Pickett for the second-most in UW history behind only Pickett's 455 against Arizona in 2001.
The injuries meant that Price was unable to do much running this season; he entered the game with minus-29 yards on the season. But his legs were on display throughout the first half as he ran for 27 yards on three carries, including two touchdowns — the first two of his career.
The second one is destined to be part of UW highlight films forever, as Price threw a pump fake that launched Baylor defensive back Ahmad Dixon into the air. Price then ran past him and through a couple of defenders at the goal line to score on a 15-yard run.
Johnson gets back in the game
Washington's second touchdown of the game was also the first catch by junior James Johnson since the Arizona game on Oct. 29. He suffered a sprained ankle in that game, and hadn't been the same since.
Johnson missed two games, then came back to play in the last two against Oregon State and Washington State. But receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty said recently it was clear that Johnson was not yet "all the way back" when he returned to the field.
Dougherty and Johnson had a long talk after a bowl practice, the coach wanting to make sure Johnson — who had 26 catches before being injured — knew he was still a key part of the team. Among other things, Dougherty said he told Johnson to remember that "you could make the game-winning catch in the game."
Johnson appeared to take the words to heart Thursday, as he looked the best he had since before being hurt. Early in the second quarter, he ran around the back of the end zone long enough for a scrambling Price to find him for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Woodward happy with progress
Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said after the game that he is happy with the progress of the football program.
"I couldn't be more proud of the job that Steve does as head coach and what he does, and it's just really heartening to watch those kids battle," he said. "The outcome wasn't the way we wanted — I hate losing like everyone else — but I'm proud of this team.
"I think we are making continued progress, incremental progress, which I love. You know we won (one) game more than we did last season in the regular season, and I just like that. We just need to keep building and keep doing the things we need to do to keep getting better, and I couldn't be more happy."
Last play goes awry
Price and Sarkisian said Baylor changed up its defense, double-covering Kasen Williams for the only time all night, on the fateful fourth-down pass that went incomplete on UW's final offensive play.
"I kind of figured I was going to Kasen the whole time and I told him to make a play for me, and I threw the ball too hard," Price said. "If I put that ball on his numbers or throw a catchable ball in there, he's going to come down with it."
Said Sarkisian: "To Baylor's credit, that was a coverage they went to for the first time all night, where we had been getting an isolation back there one-on-one with Kasen, and they really went to double coverage on him and they did a nice job."
The Pac-12 entry was the predetermined road team for the game, so the Huskies had to wear white. They decided to shake things up a bit by going with white helmets, similar to the look they had against Hawaii in September.
For that game, the "W" on the helmet was in the colors of the American flag in honor of Sept. 11. The helmets Thursday were white with a purple W and a stripe down the middle.
Washington also paired white pants with white jerseys, a look it has used before but with the gold helmets. This was the first time UW had gone with white pants, white jerseys and white helmets.
• Jamaal Kearse started at outside linebacker in place of John Timu. Timu had started at the spot all year, minus three games when he was injured. With UW subbing liberally throughout, however, Timu also saw lots of action.
• Linebacker Princeton Fuimaono suffered a shoulder injury in the first half that knocked him out of the game.
• Seahawks general manager John Schneider was among a bevy of NFL people on hand to scout the game. Griffin was an obvious subject, but there were lots of other draftable players on both sides.
• The officiating crew was from the Atlantic Coast Conference, as it is the norm for bowls to employ officials from a conference not involved in the game.
• As expected, Huskies receiver Kevin Smith (sprained knee) did not play.
• The final official word was that Washington used its entire allotment of 9,500 tickets. Baylor was said to have sold all of its initial allotment of 12,500 (the Big 12 entry is designated to get more tickets, in part because it's due to being closer) and had asked for more, though an exact number wasn't available.
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