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Luke Falk leads Crimson to 35-10 victory in Washington State’s spring football game

Luke Falk displayed the calm demeanor and patient precision that have become his trademarks while guiding Crimson to a 35-10 victory over Gray during Washington State’s spring game on Saturday at Albi Stadium.

The running backs, meanwhile, showed why they are become the focal points of the Cougars’ offense.

As the skies changed from cloudless to overcast, an announced crowd of 7,135 fans watched Falk guide the Crimson to a halftime lead, at which point he turned the keys over to younger players. He hit Tavares Martin for a 12-yard touchdown pass and then tossed another 43 yards to Dezmon Patmon for a second score.

Still, Falk wanted more.

“We had two drives we didn’t score on. Penalties got us behind the sticks,” Falk said. “But overall, I thought we did a pretty good job. Guys did what we did in practice, and played loose, and had a good time.”

The WSU running backs emerged as a centerpiece of the Air Raid offense in 2016, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and adding another 1,000 receiving. That trend continued as the running backs controlled the game, despite regular contributors Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow sitting the scrimmage out.

Keith Harrington, who was unavailable in 2016 because of an injury, carried the ball nine times for 87 yards and had nine catches for 56 yards. James Williams led all players with 112 receiving yards, while also rushing for 31 yards and a touchdown on five carries.

Williams’ success catching the ball was a welcome development for a player who had drawn coaches’ ire early in the spring by dropping passes.

Falk and the running backs found their success despite the coaches evenly dividing up the starters between the teams, causing a lack of familiarity, particularly on the offensive line.

“We deliberately create the adversity as far as playing the teams evenly so we can have it as competitive as possible,” WSU head coach Mike Leach said. “People have have to adjust to things as far as having different people around them, which I like.”

Backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who led the Gray team, was mostly accurate, completing 26 of 35 passes for 295 yards. He also ran 6 yards for a score. He showed a strong, accurate arm with a 48-yard pass to Williams.

“I thought some guys played really well, and some guys tried to make too much happen, which is typical for these,” Leach said. “It’s almost like spring games over the years. You can almost write a book on it. Some guys will be really hot in spring and then fade a bit.”

Sophomore receivers Isaiah Johnson-Mack and Patmon each had seven catches, with Patmon scoring on the strike from Falk. Johnson-Mack outmuscled safety Sean Harper for a 42-yard reception on a deep throw from Hilinski and led the receivers with 101 receiving yards.

Harper led all defensive players with six tackles, while Daniel Ekuale added a pair of sacks. Nnamdi Oguayo and Dylan Hanser added one sack apiece. Walk-on sophomore Hayden Schmidt had both of the day’s interceptions, which came off Anthony Gordon in the second half.

The defenses were under certain restrictions to make the game competitive, but they were also going up against a pair of makeshift offensive lines.

“We don’t do a true evaluation of this particular day,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “We run our defense 14 out of 15 days during the spring, and the 15th day is the one we had today. There’s some good things. We got pressure with some three-man rush and it’s an opportunity to test them at a disadvantage.”