Turns out that the phrase, “irrepressibly upbeat,” that often was used to describe Keith Price last season wasn’t accurate. The University of Washington’s quarterback, the player upon whom much depended this season, is lower than Charlie Brown after Lucy pulls the football.
“I haven’t been playing with the same passion as last year, the same people, the same confidence, the same swagger,” Price told reporters at UW’s weekly football presser. “I’ve got to get back to that.
“I just met with coach (Steve Sarkisian) and he agrees . . . just me getting back to the way that I play football, having fun and not worrying about being a coach on the field; letting the coaches do the coaching and letting me do the playing. I’m just anxious to get back to that. You guys are going to see a lot of that this week.”
Behind an injury-riddled offensive line and absent playmakers Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar, while losing in-season WR James Johnson and RB Jesse Callier, Price isn’t handling the transition well. He should be worrying about USC, which plays Washington at the Clink at 4 p.m. Saturday, but instead is pensive and tense about his own team.
He’s 11th in the Pac-12 Conference in passing yards (161 a game) and 12th in passing efficiency at 91.7. Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly leads at 164.4. Price threw a pick-six in Oregon’s 52-21 win in Eugene Saturday, the low point in a low seasonal start.
Big contrast from the end of last season, when he was murmured to be a Heisman Trophy candidate after out-performing Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, breaking the school’s single-season passing touchdown record (33) and voted the team’s most inspirational player. Now he has been in full basset-hound-face mode.
Price is offering no injury reasons nor personal trauma.
“There’s no excuses as to why I’m off,” he said. “I just have to play better. Obviously, we want those (graduated and injured) guys back, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to come up with a different way of being successful.
“I’m trying to make up for all the things that I’ve lost. I’m just trying to press too hard instead of letting the system work for me and just letting guys make plays for me.”
Sarkisian had a quick answer for a question about whether Price is have a sophomore slump in his junior season: “No.”
But he doesn’t doubt the problem is mostly self-inflicted.
“It’s not fair for him to do that to himself,” Sarkisian said. “He lost some guys that I think he was probably counting on up front. He lost a veteran receiver (Johnson) that he was probably counting on. He lost a couple veteran running backs that he was probably counting on.
In turn, (he) probably put too much pressure on himself to try to make everybody else right around him. Hopefully, what we can get him back. But to do that, everyone else has to do their jobs really well.”
Beyond the weak stats, teammates have picked up on his demeanor.
“It was funny because (linebacker) Princeton Fuimaono came up to me yesterday like, ‘Hey man, what is up with you? You don’t seem like yourself,'” Price said. “I know if guys are noticing that, then I am doing a bad job of it.
“It’s definitely a different ball game. I have to kind of channel my emotions, learn to just be disciplined.”
In the season’s sixth game, it would be a timely lesson. USC is second in total defense at 323.7 yards a game and third in scoring defense (19.3), meaning the Trojans don’t need the assistance of Price tripping over his pouty lower lip.