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Luke Falk to start for Washington State versus Oregon State, Mike Leach says

Washington State coach Mike Leach, right, speaks with quarterback Luke Falk during the first half of the game against Boise State on Saturday in Pullman. (Young Kwak / AP)
Washington State coach Mike Leach, right, speaks with quarterback Luke Falk during the first half of the game against Boise State on Saturday in Pullman. (Young Kwak / AP)

PULLMAN – Tyler Hilinski played admirably against Boise State, but he’ll still be Washington State’s second choice at quarterback when the Cougars open Pac-12 play against Oregon State this Saturday.

Mike Leach quashed any notions of a QB controversy Monday afternoon during his press conference, assuring that senior Luke Falk would be the one behind center when the Cougars and Beavers tangle this weekend.

“Luke’s playing, Luke’s starting,” Leach said. “And he’ll continue to play well I’m sure.”

The WSU coach thought a change of scenery – seeing the field from a different angle – could benefit Falk late in the third quarter of Saturday’s game at Martin Stadium. The starter had already broken the school’s all-time passing record in the first half, albeit it happened in one of his least productive games.

Falk, a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate who’s coming off a junior year that saw him named second team all-conference, had completed 17-of-24 passes for only 144 yards when he was yanked. For just the second time in 32 appearances, Falk didn’t account for a touchdown.

“Well, I wanted Luke to see how easy it was out there,” Leach said. “… And then after that, we held Luke for precautionary reasons – for reasons of our own that we’re certainly not going to share with you – and then Tyler played real well.”

The offense moved forward on each of Hilinski’s first six plays before he was sacked for a 20-yard loss. On the next play, Hilinski made an ill-timed shovel pass while trying to scramble and was intercepted by Durrant Miles.

Falk re-entered for the next offensive series, but after completing five passes to five different tagets, he was violently pinned to the ground by BSU’s Jabril Frazier. Frazier’s blow knocked the ball loose and Curtis Weaver picked it up, then bolted 55 yards the other way for a touchdown.

That gave the visitors a 31-10 lead with 10:53 left. You know the rest.

Hilinski spelled Falk, led the Cougars into overtime with a touchdown pass to Jamal Morrow, then guided WSU to the improbable victory with another TD throw to the senior running back. He finished 25-for-33 passing with 240 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s had a great debut for a guy,” Leach said. “Played against Arizona (in 2016), had great numbers there and then had a big one the other night. I think learning under Luke’s been incredibly beneficial to him.”

For the starter, it projects to be a busy week in the film room.

“I think he’s got to be more decisive,” Leach said. “He wants to overanalyze everything and we’re not looking for a guy that wants to overanalyze everything. We’re looking for a guy that executes.”

Most are anticipating he won’t have much trouble on Saturday. The Cougars face an Oregon State team conceding 46 points per game and 53 against FBS opposition. And Falk vs. the Beavers has always been a favorable matchup for the senior gunslinger. In three wins against OSU, Falk is 121-for-157 (77 percent) with 1,293 yards and 16 touchdowns.