TUCSON, Ariz. – An interception by Washington linebacker Travis Feeney late in the second quarter prefaced a 1-yard touchdown run by Bishop Sankey against Arizona on Saturday night.
That cut the Huskies’ deficit to 14 points against the Wildcats just before halftime, despite all that had gone wrong earlier in the game.
Then, UW safety Sean Parker forced Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey to fumble on the first play of the second half. Defensive lineman Talia Crichton recovered. Washington had hope a rally was in the offing.
Washington took over at Arizona’s 47. The Huskies butchered their first play of the second half despite being told at halftime what they would run. A player who was supposed to go in motion did not. The protection was wrong.
Quarterback Keith Price should have thrown the ball away, yet kept it, leading to a fumble when he was caught from behind – his 10th turnover in three games.
Arizona regained possession, scored on the drive to go up by 21 points en route to the 52-17 win and Washington was left to wonder. Again.
Atop the list of questions is what is wrong with Price? He has as many touchdown passes (eight) as interceptions.
During Washington’s three-game skid, he’s made devastating turnovers at key times. He was downcast following the loss to Oregon. Distraught after losing to USC. Crestfallen in the warm postgame air Saturday night.
“I just know off of being on the field with him, and the way I’ve seen him before on game days and what it looked like (Saturday), he’s got some doubt in his mind right now,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It’s hard to play quarterback when you have doubt in your mind.”
Though Price has been scampering away from frothing defenders week after week, his current damage is a bruised psyche as opposed to cranky knees.
That damage led to a long discussion at the end of the third quarter between Price and Sarkisian. Sarkisian said Price is not trusting the calls or system. The rhythm and faith of last season – with veteran receivers, running backs and linemen – is gone.
Now, Price is chasing things that aren’t there.
“(Sarkisian) told me, you can’t be playing against ghosts,” Price said.
Price’s eighth interception came when he threw behind an open Cody Bruns in the end zone. He missed an open Kasen Williams deep. He also missed Bruns over the middle while scrambling.
The odd thing is Price set a career-high for completions (29) and attempts (52) against Arizona. He completed his first five passes. But, none of that was representative of his flow in the game.
How to fix Price is a mystery. Sarkisian said he’ll look at the recording of the game to check Price’s mechanics. Price has been fighting to find self-belief since the three-game losing streak started.
Washington is winless on the road this season. It’s one game below .500 for the first time since Nov. 27, 2010, when the Huskies beat Cal to move to 5-6. They won four consecutive to close that season after falling to 3-6.
That season ended with two of the last three on the road against unranked teams who finished with a combined 11-25 record.
This Washington team plays three of its final five on the road. This week, the Huskies play host to seventh-ranked Oregon State. The schedule lightens after that with a trip to Cal, a home game against Utah, and games at Colorado and Washington State to end the season.
“Schemes are schemes and we have to get those things fixed,” Sarkisian said. “Our psyche, our mentality and our approach to the game is critical. Just as much as winning is contagious, unfortunately, so is losing. When things get hard, doubt can creep in.”
Things have become hard. No doubt about firstname.lastname@example.org