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Cougars look to carry on with Falk against Oregon State

After a devastating leg injury to Connor Halliday, Luke Falk will make his first college career start at quarterback against Oregon State. Falk is one of several young players needing a strong performance if the Cougs have a shot at winning.

William Mancebo

WSU football is ready to take the field for the 10th time this season on Saturday at 1:00 pm as the Cougs take on Oregon State on the road in Corvallis. Last week, WSU was dealt its fourth loss in a row and seventh loss of the season by USC 44-17. In addition to losing the game, the Cougars also lost quarterback Connor Halliday to a devastating leg injury. Halliday finished his career as the all-time leader for WSU in several passing categories. Starting in Halliday's place will be redshirt freshman Luke Falk. Falk replaced Halliday last week and threw the ball 57 times completing 38 passes for 346 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Falk appears to be on a good trajectory for a redshirt freshman. He has a good grasp of Mike Leach's offense, makes good decisions when throwing the football, and has an excellent feel for the pocket. The remaining three games of the season are a big opportunity for Falk to gain some valuable experience heading into the spring where he will compete with Peyton Bender for the starting quarterback position in 2015. Leach has sung high praises of the former walk-on quarterback, including after his performance last week against USC.  The one thing Falk is going to have to dial up if he will be the long-term quarterback for WSU is being more explosive. Falk's ability to make big plays is something fans will want to keep an eye on.

With bowl considerations long gone, the Cougars are playing for pride and cosmetic improvement on a very disappointing season. When WSU was at the midway point of its season following a devastating 60-59 to Cal, there was a lot of talk about how the Cougs were much better than their record. The following three games against Stanford, Arizona, and USC put a damper on that narrative with WSU pretty much looking like a two-win team in each of those games. It is imperative that the Cougs play a competitive game and challenge for the win this week to keep fan faith from further sinking into an abyss.

Oregon State might be the best opportunity for WSU to pick up another win before closing out their season. OSU is sitting at 4-4 after a 45-31 loss to Cal last week. The Beavs have dropped four of their last five games. Still, WSU enters the game Saturday as a nine-point underdog, the largest spread the Cougs have seen since they played Oregon in game four.

Stopping quarterback Sean Mannion, who last week broke the all-time Pac-12 passing yardage record, will be the challenge of the day. Mannion has had his way with WSU owning a 3-0 career record against the Cougars. Mannion's season has been somewhat disappointing as the loss of his top receiver, Brandin Cooks, and struggles on the offensive line have limited his numbers. Regardless, it is safe to say that WSU's young secondary will have their hands full on Saturday.

Again, WSU will be displaying a lot of youth with 11 freshman listed in the two deep. Youth has made some of the frustration associated with the 2014 season tolerable. But at some point, these young players need to give a performance to convince fans that better days for WSU football aren't too far away. WSU has a lot of questions to answer in its final four games.


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