By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
Ultimately, replay overturned Washington’s attempt to upset Stanford on Saturday. But that was through little fault of UW quarterback Keith Price.
On the decisive play in the Huskies’ loss to the Cardinal, Price – nursing a thumb injury to his throwing hand – dropped back, stepped up into the pocket, didn’t like what he saw and so began to scramble. Rolling to his right, Price saw a receiver downfield streaking back toward the line of scrimmage on the broken play. Price’s pass was just short, but catchable; it was ruled complete on the field, but overturned by replay officials.
It wasn’t the result Price and the Huskies wanted. But the play illustrated the composure and athleticism Oregon’s defense will have to contend with Saturday in Seattle. It’s something the Duck defenders are trying to prepare themselves for in practices this week.
“He looks a lot better, just in terms of the way he goes through his progression, and how poised he is in the pocket,” UO senior SAM linebacker Boseko Lokombo said. “And this year it feels like he can extend plays more, so that’s been good on him.”
Two years ago, Price looked like a budding Pac-12 star. He was UW’s starter as a sophomore, setting school records for touchdown passes (33), completion percentage (66.9) and pass efficiency (161.09). The Huskies and their quarterback were on an upward trajectory.
The 2012 season, however, was a step back – or at best, not a step forward. The Huskies went 7-6 for the third straight year, and Price’s numbers fell to 19 touchdowns, and a 60.9 completion percentage.
But through five games this season, Washington is 4-1 and ranked No. 16. And Price is on track to break his own school records for completion percentage (71.2) and efficiency rating (163.4)
“He looks to me a lot more comfortable out there,” Oregon WILL linebacker Derrick Malone said. “And that probably comes with his line – the line probably has been better for him and he feels more comfortable in the pocket – and receivers coming back to balls, catching his passes (when he scrambles).
“I feel like the team has more chemistry and he feels more comfortable with the players surrounding him.”
Price has run 27 times for 42 yards and a touchdown, so he’s not Marcus Mariota with his feet. But Husky quarterbacks have been sacked eight times, and when talking about Price’s scrambling ability, UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti invoked the names of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Jake Locker.
“Guys that can extend plays, they’re tough,” Aliotti said. “They make it tough on you. We’ve got to make sure he doesn’t extend plays, but he’s going to scramble sometimes, and those can hurt. …
“He seems to be playing with a lot of confidence. He’s throwing the ball well.”
For all of Aliotti’s concern about Price, however, he seems to be losing less sleep over Washington’s move toward an up-tempo style unabashedly influenced by Oregon’s.
How fast are the Huskies going?
“I won’t be able to tell until Saturday,” Aliotti said. “(But) we go pretty fast; I haven’t had to worry about tempo this year. I don’t anticipate it being a problem – but you never know.”
Highlights: After watching pass-rush drills Monday, I turned my attention today to seven-on-seven, which takes place during the same practice period. Mariota had touchdown passes to Bralon Addison and B.J. Kelley, and Jake Rodrigues completed one to Kenny Bassett. Defensively, Dior Mathis made a quick break to knock down a pass just as it got to the receiver.
The scout-team guys also came through with a couple of highlights. Danny Mattingly intercepted a short Rodrigues pass; given the distance of the pass and the velocity Rodrigues put on it, I don’t know how Mattingly was able to both react so quickly to it and then hang on. Darren Carrington leapt high to catch a pass against the No. 1 defense, and offensive lineman Brian Teague split a linebacker and a safety down the field for a touchdown pass while taking snaps as a tight end.
Other observations: Last week’s walk-on tryouts yielded another new addition, receiver Jeff Stolzenburg. He’s a Beaverton native who played the last two years at North Central College. … Rodrigues and Chance Allen had good chemistry today. They connected a couple times on sideline routes on which Allen made good efforts to keep his feet inbounds. … An early three-on-two period featured a couple plays of the day – Blake Stanton outleaping a safety to haul in an underthrown ball down the field, and Tyree Robinson turning the tables with an interception on a similar play. … The staff from Mark Helfrich’s alma mater, Southern Oregon University, was on hand to watch practice.