A lot can change in a year. Sometimes it’s forgotten just how long 365 days can be.
Adrian Peterson was two days from tearing the ACL in his knee at this point in 2011 and a year later he’s on the doorstep of breaking Eric Dickerson’s season rushing mark. Peyton Manning was a question mark to even return to the NFL let alone regain his Pro Bowl form after a serious neck injury.
That time can also have ill effects. Case in point is University of Washington starting quarterback Keith Price.
After playing the best game of his career late last season in the Holiday Bowl against Baylor and Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, the junior followed up his sterling sophomore campaign with an awful 2012 season capped by a 28-26 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise St.
Last year Price was 23-for-37 passing for 438 yards and four touchdowns with an additional three rushing touchdowns against the Baylor Bears. This year he was 20-of-39 for 242 yards and one touchdown to go with two interceptions. He also ran for a score.
Last year Price set UW records for total passing touchdowns (33), passing efficiency (161.09) and completion percentage (.669). This year? Let’s just say he didn’t approach any of those numbers.
Despite the much improved defensive play by the Huskies with first year coordinator Justin Wilcox at the helm, the team finished with an identical 7-6 mark in a season in which the theme was to “take the next step.” The fault falls no further than the shoulders of Price.
Sure the offense lost two of its top three receivers from 2011 in Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar to graduation and the No. 2 rusher in team history, Chris Polk, to the draft. And clearly the youth on the offensive line played a factor in the conservative playcalling and affected Price’s confidence.
Still the team had a 1,000 yard back in sophomore Bishop Sankey (1,234 yards on 259 carries to be exact), a returning high school All-American wide receiver and a third-team collegiate All-American tight end.
And yet the offense was a shell of its former self. It gained just 2,523 yards through the air in 2012 as opposed to 3,322 last season. This year the team averaged 23.8 points per game compared to the 32.3 it averaged in 2011.
Clearly the play at quarterback was the difference. Price was brilliant in his first season as a starter and all the expectations were that he would have a similar season in his second year as the full time starter as marked by completion percentage and passing efficiency if not by yards and touchdown numbers.
But he was markedly worse in all areas and his turnovers rose exponentially. Was it a one year fluke? Will Price bounce back after an offseason to get healthy, with an improved offensive line and better receiving options?
Probably not and it would be hard for him to get worse. After watching Price in 2012, it is apparent that the soon-to-be senior quarterback has lost his fundamentals. He doesn’t read coverages well. He stares down receivers, throws the ball late and off target and often gets happy feet in the pocket. He’s also not protective of the football, something that cannot be taken lightly by a program that wants to take the next step.
A third straight 7-6 season should not be accepted. This team was capable of finishing 9-4 and yet it succumbed to 7-6 because of an offense that couldn’t get the job done. Next season should see expectations rise to a 9, 10 win campaign and for good reason. There is a ton of talent on the Husky defense with all but two starters returning. The offense returns every one of its elite weapons, sees a young offensive line grow and brings in some new receiving options.
It’s time for Washington to win like the elite program that it is, but until it makes a change at quarterback I just don’t see that happening.