Price Brings Back Old Game To New Home

Price and Southwick (USA Today Sports)

SEATTLE - Keith Price admitted he hadn't smiled that much in a long time, yet it was hard to ignore the perma-grin attached to his face Saturday night. His Washington Huskies had just beaten No. 19 Boise State in front of a sell-out Husky Stadium - the newly renovated Husky Stadium.

The stadium, at a price tag of $261M, had all the bells and whistles you could imagine. And in the fourth quarter the new public address system started pumping out House of Pain's 'Jump Around' while the Dawg Pack and marching band hopped madly in place and twirled towels and basically went nuts.

It was all quite a sight for Washington fans used to seeing the students in a totally different place, and a track between them and the action as well. The moment was gigantic, and the Huskies were equal to the task.

And they had won the game handily, 38-6, without one of their biggest offensive weapons in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. They had won despite some red zone woes in the first half, leaving the Huskies with only 10 points to show for their 313 yards. They did it while racking up eight penalties for 61 yards, some of them needless procedure calls. They did it despite Keith Price throwing an interception in his very first pass of the season - a hole shot he thought he could fit in that was picked off by the Broncos' Donte Deayon.

It was a much different throw than his last throw of 2012, but the result was the same.

"It was a pick," Price said post-game, still smiling through it all. "I say ‘Goodness, I can't get a break. My last pass and then the first pass of the season.' But it felt good tonight."

One of the most-asked questions in the wake of Washington's two-point loss to Boise State last December was this; would Keith Price rebound from a so-so 2012 to regain his 2011 form, the same form that saw him out-duel Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl? Was it even fair to ask that of Price, given what he had already gone through physically at Washington?

Honestly, picking out flaws in Washington's performance Saturday night would be like picking out ant scat from pepper - especially in the second half where the Huskies out-gained Boise State in every conceivable way. They averaged nearly 8.5 yards per play the last 30 minutes, compared to three yards and a cloud of Nike Grind for the visitors.

"Hats off to Washington, they dominated us in all phases," Boise State Head Coach Chris Petersen said afterward. "I think Washington could be one of the better defenses out there. I really do."

UW's defense was the beneficiary of a sold-out, well-lubricated fan base that had been bursting at the seams for this day to come. Nearly 800 days. It was important for the team to come out and play the way you'd expect given such an occasion, but UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian was right all along; the spectacle would mean nothing without a performance from the home team to match. And he got one from everyone involved, and especially from Price.

In short? To paraphrase Paul Newman in the Color of Money - He's back, baby. Price out-dueled BSU's Joe Southwick and it wasn't really even close.

"Those guys were every bit as advertised," Southwick said.

Price finished the night 23-31 for 324 yards and two touchdowns to go with that first pass; Southwick was held to 25-40 for 152 yards and one interception at the hands of UW's Sean Parker.

"He played like a point guard tonight, and in this system I thought he was shooting the ball really well," Sarkisian said of Price's performance Saturday night.

Maybe it wasn't just a coincidence to see a smiling, effusive Lorenzo Romar walking up the tunnel, singing the praises of the football team. Perhaps freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss might have some competition from the fifth-year senior quarterback?

Probably not, but Sark's point still stands; Price bounced back with the calm and verve of an experienced signal-caller and had a dream second half - leading the Huskies to four-straight touchdowns to drive a purple and gold stake through the Broncos' hearts. There would be no comeback on this night, especially with Price having a surgeon's touch down the stretch.

Price looked to junior receiver Kasen Williams, who had been silenced for the first 30 minutes, and that typically robust connection once again proved fruitful. All it took was two plays for 57 yards and the Huskies jumped to a 17-6 lead.

After the Washington defense held fast on a fourth-and-one from their own 35 - a huge stand in their own right - Price made sure the offense would reward the defense for their hard work. Nine plays later after a mix of Bishop Sankey and Dwayne Washington, Price found tight end Josh Perkins in the back of the end zone from 18 yards out, giving the Huskies a comfortable cushion. Not only was it Perkins' first catch as a Husky, but it also gave Price the all-time career mark for touchdown passes with 56, surpassing the prolific Cody Pickett.

Price wasn't done, though. 'Finish' has been the mantra ever since Sarkisian took the Washington job back in December, 2008, but we all know the last time the Huskies were up 18 heading into a fourth quarter. That game didn't finish anywhere close to the way Sarkisian or his team envisioned, and they weren't about to make the same mistake during their 2013 debut.

Once again riding the potent combination of Sankey and Washington - who ended up carrying the ball 38 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns - Price managed the offense and clock like a seasoned pro. They may have been practicing the hurry-up and no-huddle for months, but Price ran the four-minute offense to perfection. Instead of speeding up on purpose, he did just the opposite, yet the offense was still able to maintain their rhythm and cohesion.

With four minutes left in the game and the win secured, Washington backup quarterback Cyler Miles took over. It was a long way from Keith Price's first pass of the game. But like all great competitors, especially those coached by warriors, Price was not going to let that pass, or even a mixed first half, dictate the story of the night. He was still in control of the ending.

The story ended up being a performance worthy of a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. For once, the script was exactly what Washington envisioned, because it was what Price delivered.

"I told myself I wasn't going to get down, I'm going to lead my team and go and win the ball game," Price said.

Mission accomplished.

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