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Originally published October 22, 2012 at 8:03 PM | Page modified October 23, 2012 at 7:04 AM

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No doubt about it, says Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian: 'Keith Price is our quarterback'

Despite offensive struggles, the Washington Huskies have no plan to replace junior quarterback Keith Price, who threw a school-record 33 touchdown passes last season. "That's a crazy thought," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said, when asked if the team would explore other options at quarterback.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington's three-game losing streak — in which it has been outscored 128-52 — might have elicited a lot of questions about where the season is headed.

One thing that's not uncertain, though, is who will play quarterback. Asked Monday if there would be any thought to exploring options at quarterback other than Keith Price, coach Steve Sarkisian dismissed the question as quickly as Arizona did the Huskies on Saturday night in Tucson.

"That's a crazy thought," Sarkisian said. "Keith Price is our quarterback."

Indeed, while Price's play the past three weeks — specifically seven interceptions and three fumbles — might have fans wondering if there is anyone else the Huskies could turn, the reality is Price remains the team's best option. For one, his 2011 season when he threw for a school-record 33 touchdown passes proved he can do the job when given adequate support.

For another, there is no one else on the roster who has experience.

Washington lists redshirt freshman Derrick Brown and true freshman Cyler Miles as the co-backups behind Price. Brown has seen only mop-up duty in two games this year, against Louisiana State and Portland State. The Huskies are hoping to redshirt Miles, who has not played this year.

Miles was one of two quarterbacks UW signed in February, the other is Mercer Island's Jeff Lindquist. Miles is ahead of Lindquist on the depth chart.

There are no other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Price's backup last season was Nick Montana, son of Hall of Famer Joe Montana. But after it became evident last season he was unlikely to beat out Price, Montana decided to transfer and is playing this season at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., with the hope to transfer to a four-year school in 2013.

So instead of making a change at quarterback, Sarkisian hopes to change Price back to his 2011 self in time for Saturday's 7:15 p.m. game at CenturyLink Field against No. 7 Oregon State.

Sarkisian said after Saturday's 52-17 loss at Arizona that Price was having difficulty trusting the team's offensive game plan.

Monday, he said he was confident the issue would be solved.

"I wouldn't do anything ever to put him in a situation where I think he wouldn't be successful," Sarkisian said. "So my goal is that he believes in me and in my ability to prepare him, to put together a game plan and to call plays that he can execute at a high level."

The Huskies have struggled to find an offensive formula that works this season, not scoring more than 21 points against any FBS team. Washington is averaging just 17.2 points and 336.2 yards in its four Pac-12 games, ranking 11th in Pac-12 games in each category, ahead of only Utah, which is on its third starting quarterback.

The Huskies rank last in passing efficiency and red-zone offense, scoring on just seven of 12 possessions inside the 20 in four Pac-12 games — one field goal and six touchdowns.

Sarkisian, though, noted that the Huskies had a similar three-game losing streak last season from which Price and the Huskies rebounded.

"I think we've dealt with some things on our roster this year that could have potentially started that trust to diminish in what's going on around him," Sarkisian said. "But I believe in the way I coach that position.

"I believe in Keith's ability to play that position. And we'll get it back. I just want to get it back sooner rather than later."

Notes

• UW's depth chart for this week has Mike Criste starting at right guard ahead of James Atoe, who got the start against Arizona. Criste replaced Atoe early and played the rest of the game.

• Oregon State coach Mike Riley announced after the team's Monday practice that Sean Mannion will start at quarterback against the Huskies. Mannion missed OSU's previous two games with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, but started the Beavers' first four games. Junior Cody Vaz will return to backup for the Beavers.

• Sarkisian said there could be competition at punter this week between Travis Coons and Korey Durkee. Durkee handled the punting the first three games before Coons took over. Coons struggled Saturday night, however, and one punt was returned 63 yards for a touchdown.

Washington is last in the Pac-12 in punting at 36.6 yards per punt and 31.8 per net punt (kick distance minus return distance).

"We need to punt better, we need to cover better," Sarkisian said. "That wasn't very good."

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

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