Game Daily: Soul-searching sends Price, UW into pivotal season

The last pass Keith Price threw in 2012 was an interception. He doesn’t like to be reminded of it.

Down in the Las Vegas desert, with his Huskies trailing by two in the final minute and driving, Price was picked off by Boise State safety Jeremy Ioane. Fifteen seconds later, the Broncos were hoisting a trophy, and the Huskies were slinking into the offseason with a third straight 7-6 record attached to their names.

“It was very painful for me,” Price said. “I did some serious soul-searching.”

But on Saturday, that wait for redemption is over, and football is back, baby. The UW may be breaking in a brand new stadium, but all that blue on the other sideline will look awfully familiar. It’s Huskies vs. Broncos, round two. For Price, it’s the beginning of a battle to put a disappointing junior year behind him.

This season, Price knows he’s the most important man in purple and gold. If this, the school’s most talented team of the past decade, is going to live up to its potential and make 7-6 a bad memory, it will be because its senior triggerman looks more like the sophomore who outdueled Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl than the overmatched junior who committed 20 turnovers a season ago.

All offseason, Price hasn’t been shy about addressing the need for improvement.

“I have to protect the ball better,” he said. “It’s been a real point of emphasis through spring ball and through fall camp.”

It’s been a long eight months on Montlake and not just for Price. Anticipation for the UW’s shimmering new palace has reached a fever pitch. The team’s two most talented players — as you may have possibly heard, perhaps — each ran afoul of the law in separate incidents. And yes, revenge against the Broncos is on the brain.

The Huskies can be forgiven for tugging at the reins. But the possibility remains that head coach Steve Sarkisian could keep Austin Seferian-Jenkins and/or Kasen Williams leashed up a while longer. He’s declined to make public if either of his junior stars will be suspended for their offseason mishaps and if so, for how long. And Seferian-Jenkins still hasn’t been medically cleared after breaking his right pinky two weeks ago.

But that, in theory, is where these Huskies should differ from outfits past. The roster is now completely full of Sarkisian’s recruits. These are the players he wanted. The UW should be able to hold down the fort for a half or even a full game, with its All-American candidates sidelined.

“I like our depth, man,” Sarkisian said. “This year is night-and-day compared to where we’ve ever been.”

So what to expect of a team finally built completely in its coach’s image?

In a vacuum, the Huskies look much improved. But the Pac-12 is far from a vacuum. No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Stanford, the bullies of the Pac-12 North, are national-title contenders. The Huskies have to travel to Arizona State, Oregon State, and UCLA later this season. Boise State is far from a pushover. It’s easy to find six potential defeats on the schedule.

Price, of course, a smile never far from his face, isn’t thinking about that. This season’s most important Husky doesn’t feel the weight on his shoulders.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I know how I’m expected to play. I expect a lot out of myself — I don’t need any other people telling me.”

In a roundabout way, that’s Price telling folks like me to shut up, so I will. But just because he can’t feel any pressure, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Reach columnist Kevin Dowd at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @KevinDowd

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