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September 17, 2011
Price a bit of a mystery for Nebraska
Meeting three times in 12 months makes for an interesting dynamic that is rare in college football.
While Nebraska and Washington know each other well, there is one player who didn't play in either matchup last season.
Washington quarterback Keith Price is making just his fourth career start for the Huskies and his presence at quarterback will be something Nebraska hasn't seen before.
Price didn't play in either the Holiday Bowl or the regular season game in Seattle last season. However, Price is no stranger to hostile road environments for visitors.
He made his first career start stepping in for the injured Jake Locker against No. 1 Oregon in Autzen Stadium.
There is a lasting image of Price walking into that stadium during pregame with a big smile on his face. On the game's first play, he had a shot a deep touchdown pass but got hit just as he threw the ball and the pass missed the mark.
Although the final score eventually was lopsided, Price managed the game well for the Huskies, kept them in the game into the third quarter and showed a sense of grit that he'll need as he faces a sea of red Nebraska fans.
"Going against a really great team at their place for my first start, it doesn't get any harder than that," Price said. "But this is an opportunity for the team and I think we're going to take full advantage of that."
One road game in a tough environment is going to help Price, but against Oregon, there was very little hope of a Washington win. Some thought Price was only in the game because coach Steve Sarkisian wanted to make sure Locker didn't take hits in an unwinnable game.
Against Nebraska, the Huskies go in hungry for a win, looking to 3-0 for the first time since 2001, their last Rose Bowl season. All of the pressure will fall on Price and he must stand tall in enemy territory.
The Cornhuskers don't know Price, but Price has seen what the Nebraska secondary can do after watching them limit Locker to just 127 yards in two games combined last season.
"They're a good defensive team so I'm going to leave that up to coach Sark," Price said. "I'm just going to do my job."
Sarkisian's game plan will likely include a heavy dose of Chris Polk running the football, which takes some pressure off of Price. But if the Huskies' victory over Eastern Washington is any sort of an indicator, Price will need to create big plays for the offense to put up points.
Against Eastern Washington, Price didn't complete a pass longer than 10 yards and even though Polk had a strong day, the offense never got rolling in the game making for a tight finish.
The Huskies can't afford a tight finish on the road in Memorial Stadium, because if the crowd is in the game late in the fourth quarter, Nebraska will carry a heavy advantage.
Price has the confidence and mindset he needs to succeed in Lincoln, saying "It's just another game. We're going to treat it like another game."
The reality is that Saturday is the first big test Price will see as the Huskies' full-time starter.
At the end of the game, there's little doubt that win or lose the happy-go-lucky quarterback from Compton, Calif., will be flashing his big smile like always. But if he can step above the pressure and lead the Huskies to victory, his smile will be just a little bit brighter.
Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals