PULLMAN – A week earlier, Keith Price made the play. A week earlier, the throw was perfect and the result was a huge gain. A week earlier, Price’s decision to not give up on a play and make something out of nothing was praised.
Price tried to make a similar play Friday. This time the throw was off, the result was a huge gain – for Washington State. This time the decision to find something when there was nothing will be questioned by Huskies fans, the coaching staff and Price himself.
Two decisions, two very different results and two plays that typified the up-and-down junior season for Price.
On the first play of overtime, Price felt pressure from all sides – much as he had most of the game. With WSU defensive end Logan Mayes grabbing him around the legs and a sack seeming likely, Price saw running back Bishop Sankey flash open out of the corner of his eye.
A week ago against Colorado, Price was in a similar predicament and flipped the ball forward to Sankey as he was going down. The play resulted in a 25-yard gain and led to a touchdown.
Price tried to replicate the play. But the momentum of Mayes dragging him down didn’t allow it. The ball floated and it was grabbed out of the air by nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole. And while the 277-pound Pole didn’t quite make it to the end zone after rumbling 60 yards, the turnover cost Washington its first and only possession in the overtime.
The Cougars won the game on their ensuing possession with a 27-yard field goal by Andrew Furney.
“It was a play that I should have made, or I should have just taken the sack to live to see another day,” Price said. “I didn’t have enough mustard on the ball and that’s why it sailed. It’s (a) tough to play make, but I expect myself to make that play.”
In almost every situation, lost yardage is better than lost possession.
“I should have been smarter with the ball,” Price said.
Price didn’t lose the 2012 Apple Cup with that interception. There were plenty of reasons why Washington State stunned the Huskies, 31-28, at Martin Stadium.
But Price held himself accountable.
“I have to make better decisions,” he said with his voice trailing off.
It’s not the first time he’s had to own up to a less-than-stellar performance. He finished with 194 yards passing and two touchdowns – good, but not great numbers.
Price made it all look so easy last season, completing 242 of his 362 passes for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. His completion percentage of .669 and his passer rating of 161.09 were school records.
But this season hasn’t been easy. He has missed throws, turned the ball over and looked out of sorts.
The numbers are down – 243-for-393 (.618) for 2,484 yards and 18 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and several fumbles.
“The ups and the down, man,” he said. “I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. It’s building me for something.”
Price is trying to look at the bright side.
“But I’m kind of glad this year happened for me,” he said. “It taught me a lot about myself and taught me a lot about the guys around me.”
A year ago, he was a hero. Now there are doubters. Life can be fickle for a quarterback.
“I don’t think I’m any worse of a quarterback than I was last year,” he said. “I’m still confident. I still believe I’m one of the best. Seasons like this happen. I just can’t get too high on myself or too down myself. I just have play within the system and within me.”
But the play – and other mistakes and regrettable decisions –will haunt him.
“To be honest, I think about it every day,” he said. “This is what I do. This is how a lot of people judge you … how you are on the field.
“It hurts. It hurts, man. You can ask anybody – losses, I don’t handle them very well. A lot of times I don’t even look at my phone after we lose.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish