The Early Glimpse: WSU vs. Arizona; Cougar QB Luke Falk and Wildcat QB Brandon Dawkins share a compelling, brief history

WHEN I FIRST interviewed Luke Falk way back in May 2014, then just a walk on at Washington State, I could not help but ask, “What the heck happened at Oaks Christian Academy anyway?” With Arizona coming to the Palouse on Saturday (1 pm, Pac-12 Networks) that topic is not only worth revisiting, it’s downright intriguing.

And that’s because of Arizona starting QB Brandon Dawkins.

Back in 2014, I could tell the topic of Oaks Christian was still a sore subject with Falk, who was then 2 ½ years removed from the experience -- he wasn’t all that eager to talk about his time there and had clearly closed the book on that chapter of his football career.  It was hard to blame him.

For those eho do not know, Falk transferred from Logan High in Utah to Oaks Christian in Los Angeles for his junior year. Oaks Christian is one of the premier football programs in the country, it seemed like every starting quarterback came out of there with a college scholarship to a big-time school.

The Falk family made the decision to pull up roots in Utah to try its fortunes in Southern California -- his sisters would try to launch their music careers in the LA music scene, and Luke would pursue his football dreams at Oaks.

Initially, things went as planned. Falk won the starting job right out of the gate and earned a scholarship offer to Florida State. A few weeks later, it had all unraveled. 

After losing to Bellevue High in a highly publicized national prep matchup, Falk was benched during his second start in favor of another highly rated recruit. Promises were made to Falk about future playing time and a chance to win the starting job back, but Falk and family made the decision to transfer back to Logan. By that point his sisters had already re-enrolled at Utah State, and Falk’s father was having to commute back and forth several times a week to run his business back in Utah.

The move exacted a heavy recruiting toll for Falk. He had to sit out his entire junior year, his scholarship to FSU was yanked by the Seminole coaches, and with Falk no longer on the gridiron all other recruiting interest disappeared. The fellow that took Luke's starting job at Oaks?” His name was Brandon Dawkins.

Dawkins just so happens to be the starting quarterback for Arizona this weekend.

I never got the sense there was any bad blood between these two, and Falk insisted the decision to leave Oaks was never competition related. Still, it is hard to believe Falk won't feel a little extra motivation Saturday when he looks across the field and sees his old teammate lining up under center.

  • KICKOFF: 1 pm Martin Stadium
  • TV: Pac-12 Network
  • THE LINE: Cougars by 16
  • THE RECORDS: Cougs 6-2 (5-0), Cats 2-6 (0-5)
  • RANKINGS: Cougars No. 25 in both polls

ARIZONA'S YEAR: The high water mark for the Cats came in the Pac-12 opener against Washington when they took the Dawgs to OT before falling 35-28. They've proceeded to lose all four games since then, including a 34-10 setback to Stanford this past weekend. Their two wins this season came in back-to-back home games in September against Grambling State and Hawaii.

THE INJURED WILDCAT QB CORPS: Anu Solomon injured his knee in Week One. He dressed last week for the first time since the opener, serving as the backup against Stanford.  Dawkins against the Cardinal was 5 of 15 for 116 yards with 1 TD. Solomon also got some playing time, finishing 0 of 3 passing.  Dawkins, meanwhile, missed Arizona’s Oct. 15 loss to USC due to a concussion forcing Matt Morin and Khalil Tate into action behind center, where both struggled in the 48-14 loss.

LAST SEASON'S MATCH UP: The Cougars led by 17 in the third quarter in Tucson but the Cats closed to within three midway into the fourth quarter when Falk led the Cougars on a nearly six-minute-long drive capped with a 9-yard scoring aerial  to Gabe Marks. That put the Cougs up 45-35 en route to the eventual 45-42 victory. Falk fired 5 TD passes on the day with 3 going to Marks.

Arizona's offensive line coach is former WSU lineman Jim Michalczik, the Pride of Port Angeles. He played for the Cougs from 1984-88, and was part of one of the most formidable OLs in WSU history -- the 1988 Aloha Bowl team under Dennis Erickson. He's in his fourth season with Arizona after spending nine of the previous 11 seasons at Cal. The two years away from Berkeley were with the Oakland Raiders. Arizona's associate AD for equipment operations is Wendell Neal. Before arriving in Tucson, he served as WSU's director of equipment operations from 1989-98.

As for the Wildcats' roster, four players hail from the state of Washington: safety Gavin Robertson Jr (Auburn); tight end Brion Anduze (Silverdale), defensive lineman Marcus Griffin (Bellevue); and kicker Alex Merrywell (Seattle). In addition, Ken Griffey's son Trey is a senior receiver for the Cats (19 catches for 360 yards).

The Cougars rank No. 23 in the land in total offense (averaging 488.4 yards per outing) and the Wildcats are No. 63 (415.1).

In total defense, the Cougars rank No. 51 nationally (surrendering an average of 384.3 yards per game) and the Wildcats are  No.108 (out of 128), giving up an average of 459.9 yards per game.

Falk is No. 2 in the nation behind Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes in most passing yards per game (365.8), and Gabe Marks is tied for 14th in the country in receptions per game (7.0).

Of the top 20 teams in the nation in turnover margin, four are from the Pac-12: Washington (1st at plus-13); Colorado (tied 4th at plus-10; Utah (tied 10th at plus-9) and WSU (tied 12th at plus-7).

FROM THE CF.C ARCHIVES:Falk took the hard way to WSU, by CF.C’s Matt Moore

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