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Originally published Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM

UW QB Keith Price can't dodge spotlight

The Husky quarterback's success in the first half of the season has brought increased media attention and forced opposing defenses to adjust their game plans.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Colorado @ UW, 12:30 p.m., ROOT Sports

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After a start to the season that marks him as one of the biggest surprise players in college football, the spotlight is beginning to find Washington's Keith Price.

Rivals.com named him this week the Player of the Year at the midway point of the Pac-12 season. Sports Illustrated features him in this week's issue. And he was one of nine players added this week to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given annually to the best college football player in the nation.

Also sure to start giving Price some additional attention are opposing defenses, suddenly faced with trying to find a way to stop a quarterback whose 17 touchdown passes are tied for second-most in the country as he leads UW into a game Saturday at Husky Stadium against Colorado. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m.

Early this season, Husky opponents focused on stopping the running of Chris Polk. Against Utah on Oct. 1, however, UW coach Steve Sarkisian noticed a little shift.

"I don't know if they were necessarily for Keith, but they did do some things differently, a little bit differently than what they had shown," Sarkisian said.

That contributed to some early struggles against the Utes for Price, who threw for just 81 yards in the first half. The Huskies decided in the second half to take what they were being given, handing the ball to Polk nine times in 22 plays in the third quarter, for 101 yards. That helped open things up for Price, and he had three touchdown passes in the second half.

"I was pleased with our ability to adjust to what they were doing, and able to do some things on the ground to set up some things through the air for us," Sarkisian said.

That chess match, however, figures to continue throughout the season as opponents try to figure out what to defend first — Polk's running or Price's passing?

Sarkisian thinks UW has the tools to adjust.

"The challenge for us is always going to be, what is their emphasis?" Sarkisian said. "What are they trying to do to us, whether it's in the run game or the pass game? Sometimes it can be more bump-and-run coverage to knock off the timing of our passing game. Sometimes, it can be to truly play coverage and drop eight guys and play cover-2. So depending on what we are seeing in the passing game should depict what we want to call and also where he goes with the ball within calls. I'd like to think we have enough array in each play that the ball can go to a variety of places based on what we are getting. That's the challenge of playing quarterback for us."

Sarkisian says he has no doubts Price can handle the added attention, on or off the field, citing the same personality traits that allowed the sophomore to seamlessly take over the quarterback job after the departure of Jake Locker, the face of the program the last four years.

"The beauty of Keith is, he is who he is," Sarkisian said. "Nothing is ever too big for him ... whether it's the stadium that he's in, or the media attention ... He doesn't change. That's the beauty of him. He has a calming demeanor. ... So I am not nearly as concerned about it as maybe I would be with some other guys."

His health is a bigger concern. Price has suffered two sprained knees and a sprained ankle. Last week's bye helped.

"I wouldn't give him 100 percent yet, but he looks the best I've seen him now for over a month," Sarkisian said after Thursday's practice.

Monday, Price said he anticipates feeling the best he has all season on Saturday.

"Oh yeah, I'll be able to run around a lot more," he said.

As for the accolades coming his way, Price said he is focused only on getting better, pointing out that he's accounted for five of UW's seven lost turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble). He was fortunate not to lose another deep in UW territory in the first half at Utah. Teammate Erik Kohler recovered a fumble after Price tried to scramble away from pressure.

"I'm not going to change the way I play, but I'm going to be more conscious of throwing the ball away, especially in the second half of the season," he said. "Just throw the ball away and live to fight another down."

Notes

Kasen Williams, who suffered a high-ankle sprain against Utah, practiced again on Thursday and looked the best he has all week, Sarkisian said, though he stopped short of saying that Williams will play Saturday.

• Defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who has a foot injury, is also on the mend, Sarkisian said.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Passing glance
How the starting quarterbacks for each Pac-12 school have fared this season:
Name Team Games Comp Att Int Pct Yards TDs Yds/gm Rating
Andrew Luck Stanford 5 106 145 2 73.1 1,383 14 276.6 182.3
Keith Price UW 5 97 142 4 68.3 1,209 17 241.8 173.7
Marshall Lobbestael WSU 5 118 182 4 64.8 1,570 15 314.0 160.1
Darron Thomas Oregon 5 79 133 2 59.4 1,040 15 208.4 159.3
Matt Barkley USC 6 152 223 4 68.2 1,782 16 297.0 155.4
Nick Foles Arizona 6 201 281 4 71.5 2,255 15 375.8 153.7
Brock Osweiler ASU 6 142 213 6 66.7 1,677 13 279.5 147.3
Richard Brehaut UCLA 6 66 119 0 55.5 935 6 155.8 138.1
Tyler Hansen Colorado 6 113 202 3 55.9 1,527 12 254.5 136.1
Zach Maynard California 6 117 222 6 52.7 1,585 11 264.2 123.6
Jordan Wynn Utah 4 66 116 2 56.9 727 6 181.8 123.2
Sean Mannion OSU 5 129 197 7 65.5 1,282 4 256.4 119.7
Through Thursday's game

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