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Vince Grippi’s three takes: Luke Falk another step closer to winningest Washington State quarterback after victory over USC

UPDATED: Sat., Sept. 30, 2017, 12:47 a.m.

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws against USC during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) throws against USC during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Luke Falk holds every Washington State passing mark.

But more important, he’s closing in on Jason Gesser’s school record of most wins by a starting quarterback.

He earned his 23rd on Friday night – one less than Gesser – with a precision fourth-quarter drive that covered 60 yards and killed all but the last 1 minute, 40 seconds on the clock.

It began with the score tied at 27 and the Cougars at their 25.

The drive wasn’t his alone, of course, but Falk earns the credit.

And earned is the right word.

WSU coach Mike Leach gives him the freedom to make calls at the line. His best call this night?

A third-and-4 run check to Jamal Morrow that seemed to catch the Trojan defense off guard.

Morrow busted through the left side of the Cougar line for a 35-yard run, putting the ball at the USC 23, within Erik Powell’s field goal range.

He followed that up with a 7-yard scramble on second down that shortened Powell’s kick to 32 yards. It was perfect.

And, when redshirt freshman Jahad Woods’ blitz forced Sam Darnold to fumble, the Cougars had earned the 30-27 win over the fifth-ranked Trojans.

Bell breaks out as deep threat

When the season began, the Cougars wondered who would be their deep threat.

They’ve found their guy. And it may be somewhat of a surprise.

Redshirt freshman Renard Bell, a 5-foot-8, 162-pound inside receiver, has emerged to fill the role in 16th-ranked Washington State’s 5-0 start. And more.

Bell came into Friday night’s game with Southern California holding the Cougars two longest catches of the season, a 60-yarder against Nevada and a 59-yarder against Boise State.

Just before the end of the first quarter, he did those plays one better – or two if you are talking yards.

On a first-and-10 from the Washington State 11, Bell went in motion from left to right. On the snap he faked as if he was going out, then streaked up the hashmarks.

No USC defender was within 10 yards.

Luke Falk hit him in stride and only Ajene Harris’ speed kept Bell from reaching the end zone.

Harris, with help from Iman Marshall, hauled Bell down from behind at the USC 28. It was a 61-yard completion the Cougars sorely needed and led to their first touchdown.

It highlighted a three-catch game for 101 yards, his third 100-yard receiving game this season.

Besides, it came against Bell’s hometown team.

Born in Los Angeles, Bell attended Cathedral High, hard by Dodger Stadium off the Pasadena Freeway, and just 5 miles from the USC campus.

But the Trojans didn’t recruit him and he headed north. Just like he does on the field.

Former WSU-commit Burnett returns to Pullman as member of USC

The year before Bell signed with the Cougars, another L.A.-area receiver nearly became their deep threat. But Deontay Burnett changed his mind at the last minute.

Like Bell, Burnett was rated a three-star receiver by the scouting services. And, in the summer of 2014, he committed to Washington State. He was considered one of their prizes of the 2015 class.

Especially after he continued to improve, showing so much his senior year at Junipero Serra that Michigan jumped in. He took a visit to Ann Arbor, where Jim Harbaugh was newly installed as the head coach.

But the Gardena, California, product stayed committed to WSU, and remained that way even after Arizona State offered in late January.

Then USC, who had already flipped another Cougar commit, Dominic Davis, offered Burnett on signing day. He took the offer.

He entered Friday’s game second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards per game, with 115.5, and receptions per game, with 8.2. In his first action against what could have been his team, Burnett caught three passes on the Trojans initial drive, which ended in a touchdown.

He finished with six catches for 45 yards.


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