By Brent Stecker
When Keith Price stepped onto the University of Washington campus, it's very unlikely he could foresee how his Huskies career would come to a close.
With five years and 42 games under his belt with the Dawgs, the senior leader is preparing to bow out after playing BYU in Friday's Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle at 6:30 p.m. And for the first time ever in his college career, he'll play without Steve Sarkisian serving as his head coach.
Though Keith Price is the Huskies' career leader in touchdown passes, he's yet to lead them to a bowl win, something he can change in Friday's Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be broadcast live at 6:30 p.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle. (AP)
Sarkisian, of course, left UW for USC at the end of the regular season (quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo is the interim coach for the bowl game), leaving Price without his biggest mentor for his final game. And while playing Friday without Sarkisian on the sideline could be looked at as an especially bittersweet way to part from the Huskies program, it could also be seen as a tremendous opportunity for Price.
It's an opportunity for Price because, if he can play like he has through most of his exceptional senior season, it will be even more impressive considering he did it without the safety net of his longtime coach's presence.
Except for missing one game due to a shoulder injury, Price has been the picture of consistency in 2013. He's passed for 2,843 yards, and with 221 more yards Friday he can eclipse his career high set during his sophomore season. He's completed 65.5 percent of his passes, and his 20 touchdowns to five interceptions is his best ratio since becoming a full-time starter.
If he has another game in him like any of his five 300-plus yard performances from this season, Price will turn the heads of scouts, something he must do as he prepares for the NFL Draft. And if he has another one of those stellar games against BYU, it should help him accomplish one of the few things he's yet to do as a Husky: lead them to a bowl game win.
The Fight Hunger Bowl will be Price's third bowl start in as many years, but he's still looking for his first win. The Huskies just fell short 28-26 to Boise State (and new UW head coach Chris Petersen) in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas a year ago, and Baylor took them down in a shootout in the Alamo Bowl 67-56 in 2011.
Not that Price is all that unfamiliar with bowl wins -- he was on the sideline in 2010 when Washington defeated Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
The legacy is already set for Price in Montlake. He broke the school's career touchdown pass record early on this season. He led the Dawgs to a winning record in each of his three seasons as the starting signal-caller. He's noted for his community involvement, having won the Tyee Sports Council Community Service Award at the team's postseason awards banquet.
But to finally win a bowl game and nail down the program's first nine-win season since 2000, all with the only head coach he's ever known at Washington nowhere in sight? That's a way to truly showcase his ability and poise, and truly cement his legacy.