Price took a beating throughout Saturday’s loss to Arizona State. Already nursing a thumb injury before that game even started, he eventually came out in the 4th quarter with a bad limp and an aggravation of the existing injury. From my spot on the couch, it appeared that Price should have been pulled far earlier given how clearly he was hurting and how badly the Huskies were already beaten.
At the beginning of this week it looked about 50/50 on whether Price or redshirt freshman Cyler Miles would start. However, as each weekday passed Coach Sark got a bit more confident in Price’s health. Yesterday he simply stated that he expects to have Price available for the game. That isn’t a guarantee that he’ll be ready to go, and it definitely isn’t a guarantee that he’ll start rather than Miles, at least not at face value. But given that Sark has shown a clear desire to keep playing his veteran starter even when both the team and Price’s health have failed, stating something as clear as an expectation that Price will play seems to make it very unlikely that Miles gets the start.
It’s unclear whether that will turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing. Miles has only played once this season, in the blowout over Idaho State. Yet, frustrated with the overall performance of the team but most of all Price’s inability to throw accurately over the past few weeks, a large contingent of vocal fans have called for the Colorado product to get the first start of his career. To those fans, starting a hobbled, struggling quarterback when his offensive line has shown a recent inability to protect him is simply not a good idea. A healthy, more athletic Miles might have more success dodging unblocked blitzers.
There is sound logic to that argument. Thing is, it’s tough to know if Sark sticking to Price as the starter would represent a lack of confidence in Miles, a stubborn loyalty to Price, or if it would point to an actual improvement in the health of Price. Unfortunately for Sark, fans will likely take issue with the decision to play Price unless the redshirt senior has a massive game. If he struggles, they’ll say it should have been Miles. If Miles does play, and he struggles, they’ll pin responsibility for that failure on Sark, and rightly so. These are the sorts of tough positions that coaches find themselves in when they lose three in a row and cap off the slide with a blowout to an unranked team.
One positive? The Huskies would be hardpressed to drop on at home to Cal with either Miles or Price behind center. The Golden Bears defense is almost historically bad, allowing over 44 points per game so far. The offense, formerly high-scoring behind the arm of freshman QB Jared Goff, has fizzled out and failed to put up more than two touchdowns in a game since a loss to Ohio State on September 15th. Coach Dykes also hasn’t announced who his starter will be, true freshman Jared Goff or redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
Even if the Huskies play as atrociously as they did in the desert, they will likely have a chance to win this one in the 4th quarter. To become Cal’s second win of the year (along with Portland State) would be disastrous and thoroughly embarrassing. I doubt even a hobbled Price, running for his life behind a suddenly inept offensive line, would allow that to happen. Also worth remembering that it was only two weeks ago that Price was getting national attention for his gritty, efficient performance in the loss at Stanford. We’ve gotten used to that version of Price coming and going. I can say with some confidence that Price will start next week, but as to which Price takes the field, it’s anyone’s guess.
Update: Sark has announced that Price will start.