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Luke Falk makes move to win Cougars QB job

As expected, Washington State coach Mike Leach didn't make any major pronouncements about who will be his starting quarterback next fall when spring practices concluded Tuesday, but Luke Falk, one of the aspirants to replace Connor Halliday, arguably did in the spring game.

Falk, a sophomore, completed 26 of 33 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns and led a winning effort, outplaying redshirt freshman Peyton Bender, who nonetheless did enough over the 15 practices to extend his candidacy into preseason camp.

Falk, who took over for an injured Halliday against USC last year and started the final three games, wasn't expecting to be named the starter, and he even claims he enjoys the ongoing intrigue.

"I like it," he said. "If guys think their job is secure, they get complacent. This allows us to keep working on our craft and feel like there's pressure behind us so we keep working hard. That's one thing I love about [Leach]. Competing is one thing that gets a program to the next level."

That may be him bowing to Leach's party line. It wouldn't be wise for Falk to be impolitic with a fit of grousing. But the former walk-on is not lacking in confidence, so he doesn't seem to be worrying about Leach giving him validation.

Falk has a fairly strong resume, one that shows he won't be overwhelmed by the moment. Coming off the bench cold, he passed for 346 yards and two touchdowns against the Trojans in his first meaningful college action. The next week, in his first career start at Oregon State, he was brilliant, completing 72 percent of his passes for 471 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in what would be one of the Cougars' two Pac-12 victories. His 85.1 QBR rating for the game eclipsed Halliday's previous nine starts.

It seemed at that point everyone was ready to coronate Falk as the next great Leach quarterback. Then he threw four picks against Arizona State -- notable too that he passed for 601 yards -- and achieved a meager 19.7 QBR in a season-ending, 31-13 defeat to rival Washington.

While he sees the difference between his good games and his bad games as "a few plays here and there that were costly," it is those struggles that might teach him the most.

"Those two were big learning games for me," he said. "I'm glad I had them in my career so I can learn from them and eliminate those."

Falk said he is currently focused on refining his release and developing consistency. He also will hang out in Pullman this offseason hoping to establish his bona fides as a team leader. He's already showing that quality by being eager to spread the credit around, even volunteering an optimistic take on the Cougars' beleaguered defense, which is now under the control of first-year coordinator Alex Grinch, formally Missouri's secondary coach.

Said Falk, "The defense improved a lot. There's new energy on that side of the ball."

Neither Leach nor Falk are talking about who is going to win the starting job behind center, but it's fair to say that Falk is closer to being the guy after a strong spring than he was 15 practices ago.