If one over-arching question has been attached to this season, it’s this: What happened to Keith Price? Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it a fair or simple one.
Price’s turnovers are the rightful crux of the concerns. There were too many at devastating times. However, his overall passing numbers were pretty good. Price’s completion percentage this year is 61.8 percent, which would be fourth-best in Washington history if it holds. He set the record for touchdown passes in a game with five against Colorado. Price is two touchdowns away from tying Cody Pickett’s career record of 55 touchdowns. He’s thrown 637 fewer passes.
No one took Price’s struggles harder than him. Price talked weekly with former Washington offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, even though Nussmeier is now the OC at Alabama. Nussmeier taped all of Price’s games and talked with him afterward.
“He said, every great player has his time and moment,” Price said. “The greats of the greats. You’ve got to accept, ‘Hey, this is what I did this year.’ You have to grow from it. You have to maintain your hunger and continue striking away.”
Nussmeier worked with Price during his redshirt season to alter his throwing motion and other mechanical aspects. He helped him learn the offense while he watched Jake Locker run just portions of it.
“He was just a great mentor for me in my career,” Price said. “He’s just a great person to talk to. He understood the position, he played the position at a very high level and his expectations were high just like mine. I just want to be great, and he knows it.
“Every game he watched. He’s seen my frustration. You just have to deal with it. Keep on taking all the heat in the media and keep on handling the situations the way that you’re handling it. There’s something good around the corner for you and he just kept saying he thinks I’m a great player and every great player has this stumble.”
Price had his share of stumbles during Washington’s three-game losing streak this season. His fumbles against USC and turnovers against Oregon were devastating. His Apple Cup turnovers were equally troubling. Price was visibly distraught following the losses in the middle of the season.
“That was rough for me,” Price said. “Just the way I had to handle things. It’s just funny, you don’t get a lot of text messages when you’re losing. A lot of people like to just walk by you when you lose the games. But, it’s taught me a lot and I just see how I have to deal with it next year. Next year, I’m going to deal with some things. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I know I’m going to have handle things and this year has taught me how to handle different situations and it’s taught me about myself and my character.”
Price said the only difference for him personally between this year and last year is, oddly, he’s healthier.
“It’s just strange,” Price said. “It just shows you that it’s a team. I can’t do everything, I can’t expect to do everything. That’s where I messed up at and trying to be Super-Man and trying to live up to these lofty expectations and stuff, (instead of) doing what got me to this point and not trying to get 10 extra yards when I’m down 10 yards short. And, just believing in Coach Sark and believing in the system, trusting my reads and trusting my preparation.”
There was even ludicrous talk in some circles that Price should be benched and his job as starter should be opened up next spring.
“I hear all kinds of madness,” Price said. “Somebody called me saying, they’re talking some crazy stuff like you … I don’t listen to it. Coach Sark still believes in me. He understands what’s really going on inside the offense. It’s just funny to me. But, I embrace it. I wouldn’t change this year for anything. Not even the Heisman Trophy because it’s bettered me as a person. I truly appreciate it because I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. Just seeing how people work when you’re losing has really opened my eyes because I dealt with such great success in sports. It’s taught me how to really dig down and taught me to be a leader.
“That’s what makes it fun, right? Me proving things right? And the media have one thing to say, then the next day they have something else to say. That’s just how it is. I throw four picks and hey, I’m the worse person in the world. Hey, I throw the game-winning touchdown, and now I’m back, right? I accept it and I appreciate it. I’m going to keep on playing and you’re going to see me at my best soon.”
Price anticipates that being next season.
“(This year) was hard for me, mentally, physically,” Price said. “Especially when you expect to perform so well and how hard I worked. It just didn’t pan out for me.
“God has his plan for me. I know that next year I’m going to come out ready. I’m going to come out with even more of a hunger just to prove to people this is what I do and this is who I am. I mean, I’m not too worried about it. I haven’t lost confidence in myself, I haven’t lost confidence in my teammates. It’s been a roller-coaster year for me. But, it’s taught me a lot about myself. I had to really dig deep a lot of the weeks, especially when I turned the ball over late in games which really made a difference in ball game from winning and losing. I mean that’s just taught me so much and I appreciate it. I appreciate this season and I appreciate the struggles as well as the success.”