The 104th Apple Cup (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at CenturyLink Field) will feature teams racing furiously in the wrong direction. UW is an early 6 1/2-point favorite.
University of Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian confirmed Monday that Keith Price, who played sparingly in the Huskies’ 38-21 loss at Oregon State last Saturday, would start at quarterback in the Apple Cup against Washington State.
The 104th Apple Cup is Saturday at CenturyLink Field, owing to a $250 million renovation at Husky Stadium (UW will play all of its 2012 home games at the Seahawks home field) that will keep the 91-year-old facility closed until 2013.
Apple Cup kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and will pit teams traveling fast in the southbound lanes. Washington has lost three in a row and four of its past five. Washington State, a 30-27 overtime loser to Utah last Saturday, has dropped six of its past seven.
Price, who did not start at Oregon State due to a swollen knee, had a pain-free rehab workout Sunday and, according to Sarkisian, looks better than he has in some time.
“The swelling has gone down in Keith’s knee to the point it looks normal,” Sarkisian said. “So he’ll start. Keith looked great in his rehab session, and he’s got confidence in his knee. The time that he had off (at Oregon State) helped. One of the keys for him is the length of the game and the wear and tear of the game.”
Price entered the Oregon State in the second half, threw his 26th touchdown pass of the season (he needs two more to match Cody Pickett’s school record set in 2002), and had a potential touchdown pass intercepted at the goal line. Sarkisian said it was his decision, not Price’s, to replace starter Nick Montana, who struggled in his first college start.
“He (Price) didn’t ask to go in, I put him in,” said Sarkisian, who indicated that he made the decision after he saw Price participating in a defensive huddle.
“I’ve never seen an offensive player go into a defensive huddle during a timeout,” Sarkisian said. “Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves. Our inability to make plays in the third and fourth quarters hurt us.
“We have to get back to the point where we can make those plays. That will be one of the key challenges moving forward to the Apple Cup. I was proud of our effort at Oregon State. But we have to do a better job of coaching getting our guys to believe in their ability to make plays. We have to continually strive to put our kids into a position to be successful, and that’s on us (coaches).”
Oregon State generated 484 total yards against the Huskies, most by the Beavers against the Huskies since 2006 when OSU had 488 in a 27-17 win at Husky Stadium.
“We’re just not getting off the field,” said Sarkisian. “Disappointing last week from a head coach’s standpoint is that our defense forced three turnovers and we didn’t turn any of them into points. If you want to get off the field, you’ve got to pressure the quarterback and we haven’t been able to do that (just one sack of OSU quarterback Sean Mannion).”
Asked to comment generally on a UW defense that has allowed 430.4 yards (only 21.4 fewer on average than the 0-12 Huskies of 2008) and 34.4 points on average (4.5 fewer than in 2008), Sarkisian said, “When you watch the film, we’ve gotten better in a lot of aspects. But our ability to eliminate the big plays hasn’t happened yet. We’ve had a difficult time replacing that playmaking ability that Mason Foster and Victor Aiyewa brought us. It’s just going to take time, but I do wish we were better, yes.”