CULVER CITY, Calif. — Keith Price didn’t mince words.
“Seven wins,” he said, “is no longer acceptable. That’s been made clear.”
After Washington’s three consecutive 7-6 seasons, the UW senior quarterback was asked repeatedly Friday: Is this the season that UW finally gets over the hump?
It’s a question that, like the fake rainbow that hung over a movie set here at Sony Studios, lingers over Price and the Huskies as they prepare for a fifth season under coach Steve Sarkisian.
At Pac-12 media day Friday, the Huskies were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North in a poll of conference media members. That outside perception would indicate few believe UW is ready to make that leap into contender status.
The Huskies themselves hope — and expect — the outlook to be much sunnier in 2013.
“I think we have a real chip on our shoulders. And I don’t mind it; I kind of like it,” said Sarkisian, 26-25 at UW. “There’s a little bit of an edge going on right now with our football team, and I think it’s a good thing. I think we’re hungry, I think they want to get back to work to show and prove that they’re better than what our record showed last year.”
Price, no doubt, is eager to do the same after an up-and-down junior season that ended with devastating losses to Washington State in the Apple Cup and Boise State in the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas.
“I’m ready,” Price said. “I have a lot to prove to myself and a lot to prove to you guys. I can’t wait.”
Fall camp opens Aug. 5. A few weeks later, the Huskies have a rematch with Boise State in the much-anticipated opening of Husky Stadium on Aug. 31.
“It’s pretty sweet, man,” Price said of the stadium’s $261 million renovation. “It’s just crazy. We were there the day they were knocking the thing down, and then slowly but surely you see it coming together again. It’s going to be amazing.”
Certainly, that’s the goal for the team, too. With 18 returning starters, a vastly improved defense and another strong recruiting class, the pieces seem to be in place to indeed take that next step as a program.
“The reality is we are a better football team,” Sarkisian said. “We were a better football team last year and unfortunately the record isn’t indicative of how good that football team was. Ultimately we’re judged on our final outcome and record.”
One obvious key for the program, Sarkisian acknowledged, is to win on the road. The Huskies are 11-2 at home the past two seasons, but just 2-8 in road games.
That will be especially important with UW’s four-game gauntlet to open Pac-12 play. It’s probably the most difficult opening month for any team in the conference: vs. Arizona on Sept. 28, at Stanford on Oct. 5, vs. Oregon on Oct. 12 and at Arizona State on Oct. 19.
“The real issue for us to continue to improve as a program is to maintain that (success) at home … but how do we bottle up that energy, that enthusiasm, that execution, that fight, that want-to, that energy and take it on the road with us,” Sarkisian said.
It’s one of several questions for the program. In nine days, the Huskies will start to gather some answers on the field.