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WSU’s Falk a finalist for Golden Arm award

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (4) looks to throw under pressure from Arizona State defensive lineman Renell Wren (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / AP)
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (4) looks to throw under pressure from Arizona State defensive lineman Renell Wren (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / AP)

PULLMAN – As the Washington State Cougars keep finding ways to win, the quarterback at the helm of the Air Raid offense once again finds himself in the national spotlight. Luke Falk, who has spent his week quelling a report that he has already decided to turn pro, was named a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is given each year to the nation’s outstanding senior or fourth-year quarterback.

The Golden Arm Foundation announced that Falk, a redshirt junior, is one of five finalists, along with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes II. Falk, Mayfield and Mahomes all run Air Raid style offenses.

Mahomes, who leads the country in total passing yardage, plays for former Mike Leach quarterback Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, where Leach coached for a decade.

Mayfield’s offensive coordinator at OU, Lincoln Riley, coached for Leach at TTU from 2003-2009.

Falk is ranked No. 2 nationally with 2,926 passing yards and owns the best completion percentage in FBS football, having completed 72.6 percent of his passes. Falk has led WSU (6-2, 5-0 Pac-12) on a six-game winning streak, during which he has thrown 16 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

The WSU quarterback has drawn praise for his toughness throughout the season. The Cougars give up 2.88 sacks per game, which ranks 109th nationally out of 108 FBS teams. Furthermore, because Falk rarely leaves the pocket and has a tendency to give his receivers as much time as possible before throwing, he takes numerous additional hits per game.

For example, Falk did not see his triple-coverage touchdown pass to Gabe Marks in WSU’s win last Saturday against Oregon State, because he was hit immediately after releasing the 37-yard pass.

In each of WSU’s last three games Falk has been slow to get up after taking a hit, prompting backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski to begin warming up. In each case Falk immediately returned to the playing field.

“Luke’s a tough guy. We see it game after game where he takes tough hits and pops right back up,” receiver Robert Lewis said. “So there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to be OK. I don’t even question it anymore.”

No WSU quarterback has ever won the Golden Arm Award, which as been given each year since 1987. Past winners include Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, USC’s Carson Palmer and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

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