Washington quarterback Keith Price isn’t 100 percent healthy (sore shoulder) and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian isn’t revealing if the Huskies plan to start Price or backup Cyler Miles at quarterback Friday in the 106th Apple Cup (12:30 p.m., FOX, Channel 13).
“The biggest thing is – it’s about our team, and what’s best for our team. Cyler’s performance gives me a comfort level of knowing I have a very capable guy that can go in and perform and run our offense and command our offense,” Sarkisian said Monday.
Miles’ first college start Saturday at Oregon State was mistake-free. The redshirt freshman went 15 of 24 for 162 yards in a 69-27 win, pacing the Huskies’ offense to its most points in the modern era (post-1945).
The rest of the offensive numbers were unprecedented.
The 692 total yards and 69 points were the most the program gained and scored against a conference opponent. Behind 100 yard-plus ground efforts from Bishop Sankey, Deontae Cooper and Dwayne Washington, the Huskies rushed for 530 yards, second most in school history, though it was Miles who drew first praise from Sarkisian in his weekly media gathering.
“I thought he looked like a Pac-12 quarterback. It didn’t look new to him; he just looked comfortable,” Sarkisian said of Miles. “I kind of thought that against UCLA, quite honestly, outside of a couple plays late. But he prepared really well. For a guy making his first career start on the road in that environment, in those conditions, I was very pleased.”
Monday Price threw at practice and looked better than he did at any point last week, Sarkisian said, though he wasn’t willing to commit to the fifth-year senior playing for the first time since injuring his shoulder Nov. 15 against UCLA. Per Sarkisian, Price was “probably ready to go” against the Beavers, but he opted to start Miles because last week Miles took a majority of the reps in practice.
Monday Sarkisian said the Huskies (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) were going to follow the same pattern, albeit on a short week, before re-evaluating Price.
“We really don’t know, quite honestly. We’re preparing…the way we’ll do it is like last week. We’ll prepare for Cyler to be the starter, and if Keith is physically able to go where we feel confident and comfortable in what he’s able to do, then Keith will be able to step in and execute the game plan.”
Meanwhile, the bowl-eligible Cougars (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) are coming off back-to-back wins against Arizona and Utah. They also own state bragging rights after forcing the Huskies last season into the largest fourth-quarter meltdown in the history of the series.
UW surrendered an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead and went on to lose 31-28 in overtime. Price’s ill-advised throw to Sankey on the second play of OT capped the collapse.
Washington State defensive tackle Toni Pole snatched the wobbly attempt, nearly returning it for a touchdown. Cougars kicker Andrew Furney completed the comeback with a 27-yard field goal, condemning Sarkisian to another 7-5 regular season at UW.
“It still leaves a bad taste in our mouths, I can tell you that. The players understand it, the coaches understand it,” Sarkisian said. “We don’t get to replay the fourth quarter; if we could have we would have already done that.”
“It was really almost a comedy of errors for the fourth quarter and then into overtime,” Sarkisian said.
Oddsmakers are giving the Huskies 14.5 points against WSU Friday. They own the all-time series 67-32-6 and have won 10 of their last 15 cross-state matchups. The rivalry stretches back to 1900, when they played to a 5-5 draw in Seattle.
Friday should provide a little bit more scoring. The Huskies are 16th nationally with 39.5 points per game and the Cougars are fifth nationally in passing yards (372 yards per game).
WSU quarterback Connor Halliday was 39 for 62 for 488 yards and four touchdowns Saturday against the Utes, pushing him to third in the country with 3,905 passing yards, to go along with 26 touchdowns and an NCAA-worst 19 interceptions.
For UW, who commands their run-heavy attack remains a positive dilemma.
“I know I have a fifth-year senior who is working his tail off in the rehab room to get himself healthy enough to go out and finish off his college career on a high note,” Sarkisian said. “As unfortunate as the situation is, it’s a good situation to be in with the circumstances that we have based on the two people.”