SEATTLE — Steve Sarkisian was annoyed and frustrated walking out of Autzen Stadium after Washington’s mistakes turned a chance to showcase the Huskies into an Oregon laugher before the first quarter was even finished.
A day of review didn’t make Sarkisian feel any better on Monday. And he wasn’t alone in his frustration.
“There’s nothing good about losing by 30 points,” Washington quarterback Keith Price said. “It was just as bad.”
The Huskies lost 52-21 to the second-ranked Ducks on Saturday night in a game that was essentially decided once Oregon jumped to a 21-0 lead after less than a quarter and led 35-7 at halftime. It was Oregon’s ninth straight win over Washington.
The Huskies don’t get any relief this week, closing out a brutal stretch against teams ranked in the upper half of The Associated Press Top 25 when they host No. 11 USC on Saturday, a team that Sarkisian believes has the best starting lineup of any Pac-12 squad.
“You just look at their starting 22, they are a really, really talented group,” Sarkisian said.
While Washington seems to have found some offensive answers in sophomore running back Bishop Sankey, who topped 100 yards in three straight games, the Huskies’ concerns now center on a passing game that was expected to be their strength.
Price is completing nearly 60 percent of his throws, but is averaging just 176 yards per game and has thrown only five touchdowns versus four interceptions. One of those interceptions was a forced throw in the first quarter on Saturday that Oregon’s Avery Patterson returned 43 yards for a touchdown.
It was a poor decision by Price, who was extremely hard on himself after the loss. Sarkisian tried to deflect some of the blame Monday, saying there are multiple reasons why Price has yet to match his play from his stellar sophomore season. The Huskies are without two expected skill position starters in running back Jesse Callier and wide receiver James Johnson, and are missing four expected starters on the offensive line from the end of last season.
Sarkisian met with Price early Monday, delivering the message that Price should get back to the relaxed way he played a year ago.
“I think that’s been the theme all year is not worrying about everyone else. It’s so hard to do and I’ve been struggling with that and I have to enjoy the game,” Price said. “I don’t think I’ve been enjoying the game the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been playing with the same passion as last year and the same people, the same confidence, the same swagger. I’ve got to get back to that.”
Price was 19 of 31 for just 145 yards against the Ducks, his lowest yards passing of the season. He was held without a touchdown passing for the second time, the previous time coming against LSU last month.
While Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins have done their part as the main pass catchers for Price, a third target has yet to emerge. Williams and Seferian-Jenkins have 55 of Washington’s 97 total receptions this season and no other receiver has caught more than seven passes.
Combine that with the Huskies’ shuffling of their offensive line due to injuries — which has finally solidified in the past two weeks — and there are reasons why Price has been off, even if he doesn’t want to accept those possible excuses.
“I don’t feel like we have that rhythm that we had last year, that just consistent rhythm of just moving the ball at will and scoring touchdowns in the red zone at will and part of that is on me,” Price said.