BY SPNW Staff 06:21PM 11/17/2011

Montana gets chance to start Saturday vs. OSU

After a week of practice as the starting QB, freshman Nick Montana will open against Oregon State Saturday so Keith Price can rest his sprained left knee.

Nick Montana (5) will replace Keith Price (17) as starting quarterback Saturday at Oregon State. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Since it’s difficult to know whether this is the beginning of the Nick Montana era,  perhaps it was fitting that coach Steve Sarkisian announced his new starting quarterback with a tweet, as opposed to a trumpet.

On his Twitter account Thursday afternoon before practice, Sarkisian made the decision to rest injured starter Keith Price and give the freshman backup his first start Saturday in Corvallis against Oregon State (2-8).

Price sprained his left knee while being sacked for the fourth time against USC in Los Angeles Saturday and came out of the game. The knee swelled considerably through the weekend. He was held out of most drills this week, so the elevation of Montana, who took most of the snaps in practice this week, was of little surprise.

“So proud, he has earned this opportunity,” Sarkisian tweeted. “Need to get Keith Price fully healthy, he has had a great season.”

After a fast start, Price has been plagued with knee and ankle injuries for the last several weeks, and admitted Saturday after the game that the injuries “are holding me down.”

Price was in uniform Thursday, but he had a large brace on the knee and still limped.

“We’re not going to change offensively,” Sarkisian told reporters after practice Wednesday. “We run what we run. It’s a little too late in the season to right now to change who we are and what we do.”

Playing in four of the last five games, Montana — son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe, who was in attendance Thursday —  the 6-3, 203-pounder completed 13 of 20 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Sarkisian said Montana has steadily improved.

“I think he’s gotten better consistently the entire time he’s been here,” he said. “The last month specifically have been his best practices. He’s playing faster, and part of that is when you get game experience and you realize how fast the game is, you get back out on the practice field and you say, ‘OK, I’ve really got to turn it up.'”

If Price doesn’t recover by next week in the regular-season finale, the Apple Cup at CenturyLink Field may see freshmen QBs leading both teams. Saturday against Arizona State, Connor Halliday of Spokane’s Ferris High School came into Washington State’s third series and ended up with 494 yards yards passing —  a school and Pac-12 freshman record — in the Cougars’ 37-27 upset win over Arizona State in Pullman.

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said on his KJR radio show Thursday that tackle Alameda Ta’amu has a sprained ankle, but would likely play.


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