Cougs' Apple Cup QB health a perennial issue

PEYTON BENDER may not know it, but he's on the verge of joining a long list of Washington State quarterbacks who earned a battlefield promotion on the eve -- or in the middle -- of the Apple Cup. I have no inside information on Luke Falk's status for this Friday, but as I looked on as he was being loaded up on a stretcher Saturday, I silently thought to myself, “yep, it's that time of year again.”

Far too often over the years, typically late in November, Washington State's backup quarterback takes center stage. Aside from the Brink Years, there sparsely has been a time over the last 15 seasons when the Cougars had their starting QB healthy for the Apple Cup.

While it would indeed be nice if Falk were "healthy as can be," as Mike Leach mocked late Saturday, the star QB's uncertain status headed into the 108th renewal of the WSU-UW series is more the norm than the exception. Here's the history:

  • 2000 -- Sophomore Jason Gesser missed the Apple Cup with a broken leg sustained two weeks earlier, leaving second-year freshman Matt Kegel to lead the way. WSU lost.

  • 2001 -- Gesser played in this one but with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. WSU lost.

  • 2002 -- Gesser was knocked out the game in the third quarter with a high ankle injury and gave way to Kegel. WSU lost.

  • 2003 -- Kegel separated his throwing shoulder a week before the Apple Cup and threw but 12 passes against the Huskies before giving way to Josh Swogger. WSU lost.

  • 2004 -- Swogger broke his foot in mid October and missed the rest of the season, giving way to freshman Alex Brink. WSU won, and Brink would proceed win two more Apple Cups in his next three starts between 2005-07.

  • 2008 -- The Cougars lost Gary Rogers to a neck injury early in the season, and then backups Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael went down before Lopina retuned for the Apple Cup. WSU won.

  • 2009 -- Jeff Tuel had gone down earlier in the season and then Lobbestael was knocked out with a concussion in this Cup. So WSU actually finished the Apple Cup with walk on punter Dan Wagner under center. WSU lost.

  • 2011 -- Tuel was lost for the season early on and then Connor Halliday lacerated his liver a week before the Apple Cup, putting the starter's job in Lobbestael's hands. WSU lost.

  • 2014 -- Halliday broke his leg two weeks before the big game and Luke Falk earned the start. WSU lost.

    Essentially, the Huskies haven't had to face WSU's best quarterback in two-thirds of the last 15 meetings.

    Falk's injury, if it does keep him sidelined, is just par for the course. So yeah, it's Apple Cup time -- the time of year when UW can start a true freshman at QB and still expect have the most experienced quarterback on the field. So be it. Peyton Bender will be UW's problem, not ours.

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