Cougs would be well served to give meaningful time to a QB backup early in 2016 season

ANYONE WHO QUESTIONS Luke Falk's toughest either has an impossibly high bar, or isn't watching. Time after time after time this season, the Washington State sophomore quarterback has patiently stood in the pocket, sometimes a bit too long but always with the thought of finding the possibility of the best play.

Occasionally, it comes at a price. Falk briefly left with the UCLA game after getting blasted, and couldn't finish against Colorado after taking another difficult hit, a play that cost him the Apple Cup.

Tell me you weren't thinking "here we go again" late in the first quarter during Saturday's Sun Bowl, when Falk, again working from the pocket, took a vicious shot from Miami linebacker Al-Quadin Muhammad. The blow put Falk flat on his back, and his head -- as it did against UCLA and Colorado -- glanced off the turf.

Falk bounced back and didn't miss a beat, finishing a 20-14 win over the Hurricanes in a game where he threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns.

But how many more of these blows can Falk sustain and continue to keep on playing? This is a question few, if any of us, are educated enough to know the answer.

The momentum of this year's nine-win season and the return of many key players make 2016 a season that will have great anticipation for the Cougars. Washington State will be among the Pac-12's North Division favorites, and Falk's return is a driving reason behind that.

For that reason, the Cougars ought to bite the bullet and give Peyton Bender, or whomever earns the backup quarterback job, and give him some meaningful playing time in September. A series in the second and third quarter during the non-league games could go a long way for Bender if he's again tapped during crunch time of Pac-12 play.

It's not enough that Bender played the entire Apple Cup, particularly since it was a negative experience. Bender -- or whomever is the backup -- needs some positive, confidence-building series early in the 2016 season in case they're needed for meaningful action in October or November.

It would be great if Falk could survive an entire season. Can you imagine the heights that Falk could lead WSU next season, or the numbers he would produce?

But Falk's 2015 season says it's wise to be a little cautious next season. Having an experienced backup in Bender means a setback to Falk doesn't have to derail what could be a special season.

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