BY Steve Rudman 03:58PM 09/01/2011

Huskies’ new QB has much history to live up to

Keith Price will attempt to enhance a legacy of impressive seasonal QB debuts in the Huskies’ football history when Washington opens its 2011 season Saturday at Husky Stadium against Eastern Washington.

Redshirt sophomore Keith Price won Washington's starting quarterback job over Nick Montana and will face Eastern Washington Saturday. / Kyle Scholzen, Sportspress Northwest

No one, save perhaps Steve Sarkisian and his staff, knows what to expect out of Keith Price, charged with replacing Jake Locker as quarterback of the Washington Huskies, who launch their 2011 season Saturday against Eastern Washington. Price has one career start (a blowout loss to Oregon last year), seven mop-up jobs, 37 attempts, 19 completions and two touchdown passes to show for his brief time at Montlake, hardly enough data to speculate on whether Price tilts toward Sonny Sixkiller or Casey Paus.

With Chris Polk expected to serve (once he fully recovers from knee surgery) as the focus of Washington’s offense, Price doesn’t need to replicate the splashy debut season that Sixkiller had in 1970, when he engineered a five-game improvement (from 1-9 to 6-4) over 1969. In fact, all Price (or backup Nick Montana) needs to do is avoid becoming a pox on the order of Paus (five TD passes, 17 interceptions in 2004).

UW fans should not expect Price to throw for 2,000 yards, a level Locker reached in each  of his full three varsity seasons. Since 1970, only seven (out of 18) Washington quarterbacks have done that in their debut seasons, and two of them, Sixkiller in 1970 and Cody Pickett in 2001, played in pass-oriented offenses. The following UW quarterbacks averaged the most passing yards per game in their first season as starters:

Year QB G Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int. Pct. YPG
2001 Cody Pickett 11 355 196 2696 12 16 .552 245.1
1970 Sonny Sixkiller 10 362 186 2303 15 22 .514 230.3
1991 Billy Joe Hobert 12 319 191 2463 24 12 .599 205.2
1999 Marques Tuiasosopo 12 322 189 2418 12 12 .587 201.5
2005 Isaiah Stanback 11 264 143 2136 6 9 .542 194.3
1986 Chris Chandler 12 318 180 2193 20 15 .566 182.7
2007 Jake Locker 12 328 155 2062 15 15 .473 171.8

Four of the QBs — Pickett (Holiday), Hobert (Rose), Tuiasosopo (Holiday) and Chandler (Sun) — directed bowl teams. Two, Stanback (2005) and Locker (2007), quarterbacked losing teams. Not listed above: Steve Pelluer. In 1981, Pelleur put up less-than-stellar numbers as a sophomore starter (nine TD passes, nine INTs and a .475 completion percentage), but became the winning quarterback for a 10-2 team that beat Iowa in the 1982 Rose Bowl.

Nor does Price have to throw 20 touchdown passes to become an effective steward of Washington’s offense. Of the 18 quarterbacks (since Sixkiller) making their debuts as regular starters (vs. injury replacements), just two, Chandler in 1986 (20) and Hobert (24) in 1991, accomplished that feat. Four of the 18 — Sixkiller (1970), Cary Conklin (1988), Damon Huard (1993) and Pickett (2001) — threw more interceptions than touchdown passes and still directed winning teams.

Although Price has made one career one start — he threw for 127 yards and a 17-yard touchdown to D’Andre Goodwin in last year’s 53-16 loss to Oregon — Saturday will mark his first snaps as the team’s regular starting quarterback. Since Sixkiller in 1970, the following is how the 27 players who started at quarterback fared in their first starts (as opposed to their first appearance):

Year Date QB Opponent Yards TD INT W/L
1970 9/19 Sonny Sixkiller Mich. St. 276 3 3 W 42-16
1970 11/7 Greg Collins at Stanford 9 0 1 L 22-29
1972 10/21 Denny Fitzpatrick at USC 15 0 2 L 0-34
1973 10/27 Chris Rowland at Oregon 68 0 3 L 7-31
1975 9/13 Warren Moon at ASU 121 0 0 L 12-35
1978 9/9 Tom Porras UCLA 89 0 2 L 7-10
1978 11/25 Tom Flick at WSU 65 2 1 W 38-9
1981 9/12 Tim Cowan Pacific 168 1 2 W 34-14
1981 9/26 Steve Pelluer at Oregon 234 1 1 W 17-3
1984 9/8 Hugh Millen at Northwestern 103 0 1 W 26-0
1984 11/3 Paul Sicuro California 117 3 0 W 44-14
1985 11/16 Chris Chandler USC 197 2 0 W 20-17
1988 9/10 Cary Conklin at Purdue 57 1 3 W 20-6
1990 9/8 Mark Brunell San Jose St. 66 1 0 W 20-17
1991 9/7 Billy Joe Hobert at Stanford 244 2 1 W 42-7
1993 9/4 Damon Huard Stanford 174 3 0 W 31-14
1993 9/6 Eric Bjornson at OSU 113 0 0 W 28-21
1996 9/7 Shane Fortney at ASU 96 1 0 L 42-45
1996 9/21 Brock Huard at Arizona 311 3 1 W 31-17
1997 11/8 M. Tuiasosopo Oregon 261 1 1 L 28-31
2001 9/8 Cody Pickett Michigan 199 0 0 W 23-18
2001 10/13 Taylor Barton at UCLA 316 1 1 L 15-35
2004 9/5 Casey Paus Fresno St. 183 0 3 L 15-35
2004 10/2 Carl Bonnell at Stanford 118 1 1 L 13-27
2004 10/16 Isaiah Stanback OSU 219 2 1 L 14-29
2007 8/31 Jake Locker at Syracuse 142 0 2 W 42-12
2008 9/27 Ronnie Fouch Stanford 186 1 0 L 28-35
2010 11/6 Keith Price at Oregon 127 1 0 L 16-53

BEST STARTING DEBUT

Although Brock Huard, the first freshman to start for the Huskies in 51 years (1996), torched Arizona for 311 yards, our nod goes to Chris Chandler for his performance against USC in 1985 (Nov. 16). With slightly more than four minutes to play, UW trailed USC 17-13, and defeat seemed imminent with the Trojans in possession at the Husky one-yard line.

But USC’s Ryan Knight, who already gained 135 yards, fumbled a handoff from Rodney Peete and Washington’s Ron Hadley recovered at the two-yard line, leaving the Huskies 98 yards to navigate. Three plays later, Chandler faced fourth-and-two on the UW 10. Somehow, he found Lonzell Hill cutting across the middle for 12 yards and a first down. Chandler and Hill then collaborated on a third-down, 17-yard pass play and another first down. Continuing the drive, Chandler completed a 21-yard pass to David Trimble, an 11-yarder to Hill and a nine-yarder to TE Rod Jones. With 56 seconds to play and the Huskies at the USC 13. Chandler drilled Hill for the winning touchdown.

BEST FIRST GAME (NON-START)

Marques Tuiasosopo had a notable debut on Sept. 27, 1997, when he replaced an injured Brock Huard and threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns against No. 7 Nebraska. But Chris Rowland delivered a greater mop job in 1973. On Oct. 6 that year, Rowland, Washington’s No. 3 quarterback, came off the bench midway through the first half after starter Denny Fitzpatrick and backup James Anderson had done nothing against a California team that featured Chuck Muncie, Vince Ferragamo and Wesley Walker. With the Huskies trailing 37-14, Rowland completed 17 of 43 passes for 311 yards and set a school record (also tied the conference record) with five touchdown passes (5 and 3 yards to Reggie Brown, 17 yards to Ken Conley, 28 to Donnie Waters and 9 yards to Mark McDonald). Rowland’s five TDs broke the UW mark of four by Don Heinrich against WSU in 1950 and remains  the school single-game record.

WORST DEBUT AS A STARTER

After throwing five TD passes against Cal, Rowland leapfrogged over Fitzpatrick and Anderson and drew the starting assignment one week later against Oregon State. Rowland mustered just 68 yards and tossed three interceptions in a 31-17 defeat.

MOST SURPRISING PERFORMANCE IN A STARTING DEBUT

After Washington stumbled home 1-9 in 1969, the 1970 team had the No. 3 quarterback, Sonny Sixkiller, on the depth chart in the starting lineup (due to injuries to the starter and his backup). In a rematch with an opponent, Michigan State, the Huskies had lost to by  16 a year earlier, the surprise wasn’t so much that oddsmakers made the Huskies three-point underdogs, but that they didn’t dismiss UW by double digits. Even the media cautioned UW fans not to expect too much when they arrived at Husky Stadium.

But Sixkiller directed an offense that gained 598 yards, most by a UW team since World War II. Sixkiller threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns as the UW romped, 42-16. In the 41 years since Sixkiller’s debut, only two UW quarterbacks have passed for more yards in their coming-out party. The 42 points by the Huskies marked their most in a game since the 1960 team that eventually went to the Rose Bowl dropped 55 on College of the Pacific.

300 PASSING YARDS IN A STARTING DEBUT

Only two UW quarterbacks have exceeded 300 passing yards in their debuts as a starter. Brock Huard did it with a 311-yard, three-touchdown performance at Arizona in 1996, and Taylor Barton, subbing for an injured Cody Pickett, also accomplished the feat at UCLA on Oct. 13, 2001, when he threw for 316 yards and a touchdown in a 35-15 loss to the No. 7-ranked Bruins. Barton’s performance came against a UCLA team that featured 23 seniors on its roster. It also marked the only start of Barton’s career.


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