By Mitch Light
He was one of the most decorated players in school history. The face of Washington football for four seasons, Jake Locker became the first quarterback from the UW ever selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Locker’s gone, yet quarterback is still a position of strength for the Huskies. The man to thank for that is Keith Price, a sophomore from Compton, Calif. In his first season as the starter, Price has guided the Huskies to a 3–1 start, with the only loss coming in a 51–38 decision at Nebraska in a game in which he threw for 274 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, Price has completed 75-of-112 passes (67.0 percent) for 983 yards with 14 touchdowns (the most in the nation) and only three interceptions. Those numbers are good enough to rank him No. 2 in the Pac-12 and No. 9 in the nation with a passing efficiency rating of 176.58.
Price was at his best in last Saturday’s win over California in the Pac-12 opener, completing 19-of-25 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has completed at least 57 percent of his attempts in each game and has thrown at least three touchdowns in each game.
Last season, Locker completed only 55 percent of his passes and threw for at least three touchdowns only twice.
This isn’t to say that Price is a better player than Locker — though surely some Washington fans are making that argument — but it’s clear that the Huskies are getting more production from the quarterback position with Price running the show.
“He’s playing phenomenal football for us right now,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the Nebraska game. “He’s been lights-out. He’s got an innate ability to extend plays and keep his vision and find open receivers downfield.”
Price is thriving despite playing on two injured knees. He sprained his right knee in the second quarter of a Week 1 win against Eastern Washington and sprained the left knee against Nebraska. It hasn’t hindered him in the passing game too much, but he hasn’t been able to use his legs as much as planned.
In four games, Price has netted only 12 yards rushing.
“The only thing mechanically is just not being able to really run,” Sarkisian said last week. “He’s still quick and elusive. We see that in the pocket. We see it in some suddenness on the about 6-, and 7-yard runs. He just hasn’t been able to open up and go like the way he can.”
AROUND THE PAC-12
• Oregon State is 0–3 for the first time since 1996. The Beavers were 0–3 12 times from 1972 through 1990.
• UCLA completed only seven passes in its 22–19 win over Oregon State. It is the fifth time since the start of last season that the Bruins have completed fewer than 10 passes. They are 3–2 in those games, with wins over Houston, Texas and Oregon State and losses to Kansas State and Washington.
• USC is last in the Pac-12 and 113th in the nation in turnover margin (-1.5 per game). The Trojans have forced three turnovers — only seven teams have forced fewer.
• When not playing LSU, Oregon is averaging 600 yards per game and 9.0 yards per play. The Ducks averaged 4.1 yards per play against LSU.
• Arizona has allowed teams to score on 20 of 22 trips inside the red zone, with 16 touchdowns and four field goals.
• Colorado ranks 118th in the nation with 9.5 penalties per game.
• Despite playing only three games, the Stanford defense leads the nation in yardage lost on sacks. The Cardinal have recorded 14.0 sacks for a combined 114 yards lost.
• Washington ranks last in the Pac-12 in passing defense by more than 60 yards per game. The Huskies are giving up 327.5 yards per game; Stanford is next at 265.7 per game.