Linebacker Princeton Fuimaono came up to Keith Price on Sunday with a simple question that yielded an in-depth answer.
“Man, what’s up with you?”
Price smiled Monday when recounting the conversation he says is emblematic of his mindset. To hear Price tell it, he’s just not being himself.
“I think I’m pressing too hard and trying to be something I’m not,” Price said. “I can feel myself being serious. Being too serious instead of, I guess, my carefree attitude. Just getting back to that.
“I think guys respond better when I’m like that. Guys see me tense up, I think that’s how our team (becomes) offensively and defensively. They look at me. If guys are noticing that, obviously, I’m doing a bad job.”
This is a continuing theme from Saturday night when Price was particularly hard on himself following the loss to Oregon. He wasn’t helped by the loss of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second half because of injury. Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t have any update on Seferian-Jenkins’ status Monday, though the tight end was listed as a starter on the new depth chart.
Price could use his help. Earlier in the year, Price uncharacteristically threw his hands up and yelled toward the sidelines. His mojo and accuracy are off this season, something Price vows to fix.
“I’ve just got to focus on myself,” Price said. “Not worrying about everybody else. It’s so hard to do. I’ve been struggling with that. I have to enjoy the game. I don’t think I’ve been enjoying the game the past couple weeks.
“I haven’t been playing with the same passion that I was last year. The same pep in my game. The same confidence. The same … I don’t know, swagger. I have to get back to that.”
It was a forthcoming meeting with the media for Price, who is always congenial but rarely expansive. Price said he met with Sarkisian earlier in the day and that Sarkisian agreed with the self-assessment.
Later, Sarkisian tried to shift the conversation from Price to the team as a whole. He also explained that he wants Price to discard some of the burden he’s carrying.
“I think he’s been too hard on himself,” Sarkisian said. “It’s not fair for him to do that to himself. He lost some guys I think he was probably counting on up front. He lost a veteran receiver that he probably was counting on. He lost a couple veteran running backs he probably was counting on.
“We all need to get better.”
The offensive line has improved. Washington allowed one sack against Oregon, though Price was occasionally flushed from the pocket. The line appears to be settling in after a rash of injuries – Colin Porter was lost last spring, and Colin Tanigawa and Erik Kohler went down in the fall. Washington starts two freshmen, Shane Brostek and redshirt Dexter Charles, along with sophomores Micah Hatchie and James Atoe. Senior Drew Schaefer is the center.
Bishop Sankey has run for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games behind that revamped line. In one of the season’s odd twists, concerns now revolve around the passing game instead of Washington’s ability to run or defend.
“We need to really focus on and address our passing game so we can become a complete, balanced offense,” Sarkisian said.
That, as Price points out, starts with him. He’ll try to get it going Saturday against 11th-ranked USC, the third-best pass defense in the conference.
Washington fell out of the Top 25 following Saturday’s loss, but still received 39 votes in The Associated Press poll. … The start time for Washington’s Oct. 20 game at Arizona is 7 p.m. … Sarkisian said he doesn’t think Lane Kiffin’s offense at USC is radically different than what was used when Kiffin and Sarkisian coached there together. … Sarkisian said he thought USC running back Silas Redd, a transfer from Penn State, had his best game of the season last week.
HUSKIES’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
NO. 11 USC TROJANS (4-1 OVERALL, 2-1 PAC-12)
4 P.M. SATURDAY, CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. RADIO: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
COACH: Lane Kiffin (22-8, 3rd season)
AGAINST THE HUSKIES: USC leads all-time series 49-28-4.
WASHINGTON CONNECTIONS: The main obvious tie to USC is Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was hired away from the Trojans in 2009 where he spent seven of the previous eight seasons (all but 2004). Sarkisian and USC head coach Lane Kiffin worked together on Pete Carroll’s staff many of those years. Huskies head strength coach Ivan Lewis and director of football operations Jared Blank all worked for the Trojans before being hired by Sarkisian. Many of Kiffin’s current staff at USC spent time on Carroll’s Trojans staff along with Sarkisian and the other UW staff with USC ties. USC’s D-line coach Shawn Howe and UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox worked on the same staff at Tennessee in 2010. The only Washingtonians on the USC roster are freshmen Zach Banner (Lakes) and Alex Wood (Mercer Island). However, as is the case each year, a good deal of UW and USC players have played with or against one another in high school due to the number of Huskies from the L.A. area. The Huskies roster includes 34 players from the Southern California area. Washington linebacker Nate Fellner and USC punter Tyler Negrette are cousins.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Trojans tout arguably the best receiving duo in the conference and possibly the country. Sophomore flanker Marqise Lee and junior split end Robert Woods have a combined 83 catches this season. For contrast, Washington quarterback Keith Price has 94 completions. The Trojans move them around a lot, so lining up correctly is crucial for defenses to stop them.
DID YOU KNOW? USC will be the fourth team in the past five games on Washington’s schedule that has been ranked in the top 10 at some point during this season. STATISTICAL LEADERS
Sept. 1def. Hawaii, 49-10
Sept. 8def. Syracuse, 49-29
Sept. 15lost to Stanford, 21-14
Sept. 22def. Cal, 27-9
Oct. 4def. Utah, 38-28
Oct. 27at Arizona
Nov. 10Arizona State
Nov. 17at UCLA
Nov. 24Notre Dametodd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports firstname.lastname@example.org