In a game that was neither all that impressive nor seriously in doubt, the Washington State Cougars took care of business against the Colorado Buffaloes with a 27-3 victory on Senior Night to move to 8-3 on the season.
But that wasn't even close to the biggest story of the evening, as Luke Falk was knocked out of the game for the second consecutive week. Only this time, he left the game on a stretcher that was on the back of a cart.
The hit that sent Falk out of the game occurred midway through the third quarter with WSU leading 17-0, and it featured another vicious sack in which Falk's head was slammed into the turf. Shortly after he made contact with the ground, the ball tumbled free as Falk appeared to briefly lose consciousness.
Medical staff removed Falk's facemask before placing him on a backboard and loading him up on a cart. Falk had movement in his extremities, and he did try to show the crowd he was OK on his way out:
Luke Falk encourages the crowd after being carted off. https://t.co/wCT1tcp98N— Jeff Nusser (@NussCoug) November 22, 2015
Against UCLA, Falk returned to the game after a brief absence. There was no such return tonight; as of last report on the broadcast, Falk was alert and being taken to the hospital for further examination.
It was Colorado's first and only sack of the game.
Despite the final margin, it was a weirdly uninspiring game. WSU led just 14-0 at halftime, despite gaining 248 yards, as the Cougars were sabotaged by going just 2-of-8 on third and fourth down combined in the first 30 minutes. It wasn't a dominant half, but it felt like the Cougars probably should have had another seven points.
The third quarter started well, though, as Charleston White intercepted Cade Apsay on the Buffaloes' initial possession. WSU drove down to the Colorado 14, but settled for a field goal to stretch the lead to 17-0.
WSU forced a punt, leading to the fateful drive in which Falk was injured. Redshirt freshman Peyton Bender replaced Falk, as he did last week, and comported himself reasonably well in a performance that was unsurprisingly inconsistent.
Bender finished 13-of-22 for 133 yards with a touchdown and an interception -- and he could have had a couple of more picks. But when he was on, he was solid; on his lone touchdown drive at the helm, he completed 7 of 8 passes for 65 yards and found the end zone on a gorgeous fade to Gabe Marks.
Friend of the Networks @throwitupto9 earns the #12Best moment of the night for @WSUCougFB! https://t.co/6mbXS1qFKs— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) November 22, 2015
On the other drives, though, he was only 6-of-14 for 68 yards.
Both quarterbacks were the beneficiary of a strong rushing game, as WSU had its first 100-yard rusher in five years when Gerard Wicks went over the century mark in the fourth quarter. He finished with 123 yards on 13 attempts.
One unfortunate byproduct of Falk's injury is that a stellar defensive performance has become a bit of an afterthought, which is totally dumb because this was the lowest point total by a WSU conference opponent since 1996.
The Buffs did move the ball a bit, gaining 323 yards -- for a while Apsay seemed to find Nelson Spruce whenever he wanted for completion after completion. But as has been the defense's M.O. for a while, yards didn't translate into a lot of points for the Buffs.
Colorado drove down to WSU's 7-yard-line in the third quarter before settling for a field goal, then in the fourth quarter -- needing a touchdown to maintain contact -- the Buffs botched the shotgun snap on fourth down at WSU's 4-yard-line and the drive stalled.
That was one of nine tackles for loss for WSU, which also had four sacks, five pass breakups, two interceptions -- including the first of senior Taylor Taliulu's career -- and two forced fumbles. The defense was full of havoc.
Now our attention turns to the Apple Cup. Will Luke Falk play? Don't expect an answer form Mike Leach.
Coach Leach, your QB Luke Falk was taken off on a cart, how is he? #Wazzu https://t.co/A50gMURhQX— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 22, 2015