SEATTLE – There is bearing the weight of the world. Then, there is what Keith Price feels he is shouldering.
Washington’s quarterback was pegged with four more turnovers Saturday night. That’s seven in two weeks, both contributing hugely to two losses, the latest a 24-14 setback to 11th-ranked USC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night in front of 66,202, Washington’s largest home crowd of the season.
Price started the season as Washington’s rock. Now, he’s shaken at the year’s midpoint. Price has thrown seven touchdowns and six interceptions for Washington (3-3 overall, 1-2 Pacific-12 Conference) for a variety of reasons. His young, fluctuating offensive line has not helped. Drops have not helped. Two of his interceptions were the fault of receivers, but, like the blame he claimed postgame, the damage falls on his ledger.
All told, Price is left with his second consecutive week wondering what is going wrong. He set Washington’s single-season passing touchdown record in his first year as a starter. Saturday night, his two fumbles and two interceptions – one Austin Seferian-Jenkins tipped and claimed responsibility for – left a stout defensive performance to be embraced by moralists. The reality, though, is Washington lost despite Price completing 16 consecutive passes. And, it’s a reality that is hammering him, just as many opposing defenses have.
“I know it’s going to hurt me all night,” Price said. “It’s going to hurt me all weekend, it’s probably going to hurt me on Monday. I just have to stay strong and continue believing in myself.”
Price’s fumble at the USC 3 early in the fourth quarter with Washington trailing 24-14 preceded his fumble at USC’s 33 with just more than two minutes remaining.
On both plays, Price was running from trouble, something he did a lot of Saturday against USC’s menacing front four, and paid for it. He tried to cut back at the goal line on an option read only to have the ball freed by the hand of Jawan Starling before defensive tackle Leonard Williams whacked Price to the ground.
He was hit hard again at the end of the later scramble, jarring the ball loose. Price rolled over and touched his head to the ground in aggravation after USC (5-1, 3-0) joyfully recovered.
“I’m not having the season that I expected,” Price said. “It’s unfortunate when I worked so hard. I worked harder than I did last season. It’s just not falling for me. That’s the most frustrating part. (Saturday), there were plays where I tried to do too much and it cost my team and cost my team a loss.”
Price did get on a roll after an atrocious start. He missed two receivers with his first two throws and was intercepted by linebacker Dion Bailey on his third when he tried to fit a pass into double coverage over the middle and Bailey contorted himself for the difficult interception.
But, Price completed his next 10 passes in the half, including an elegant strike to Kasen Williams for a 17-yard touchdown and a touch of life for Washington. Williams’ fourth TD of the season pulled Washington to 10-7 with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter.
Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley answered with a perfect pass of his own down the middle to tight end Xavier Grimble. Despite having three Washington defenders around him, Grimble was able to stick his hands out and pull in Barkley’s pass to put the Trojans up 17-7 with 12:22 to go in the half before a Washington special teams mistake pushed USC even further out front.
Anthony Brown zipped through the middle to block Travis Coons’ punt and score. Coons was whacked by a bevy of white jerseys after the block, giving Brown enough time to get back on his feet, scoop the ball and run in from the Washington 7. Officially, it goes down as a 21-yard touchdown for Brown because the play started at the 21, giving USC a 24-7 halftime lead.
The Trojans were held to a field goal when Washington bandaged a gash. Running back Silas Redd took USC’s first snap of the day 57 yards to the Washington 9. The Huskies had him briefly stifled in the backfield prior to Redd shifting to the right and getting into open field.
Yet, Washington was able to hold USC to just a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 11:48 to go in the first quarter. The stop was part of a stern night for the Washington defense against the Trojans’ conservative approach. The Huskies shut out USC in the second half and held the Trojans’ touted tandem of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to seven combined catches, the first time this season the duo has not reached double-digits in receptions. Barkley completed 10 of 20 passes for 167 yards.
Which, again, turned the focus back to the offense and Price. Seferian-Jenkins was wide open for a 29-yard touchdown catch with 6:02 to play in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 10 points. Subsequent turnovers would quell attempts at a rally.
“We really don’t care what the fans think about Keith,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We care about how we think about Keith. He’s our leader and we’re going to stand behind him.”
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