By Katherine Barner
It was a sad holiday for Washington State University as they faced off against the University of Minnesota in the National Funding Holiday Bowl. The Cougs lost 17–12, which was a major upset for WSU fans.
Washington State was favored due to Minnesota’s attempt to boycott the game when 10 of its players were suspended for sexual assault. Most people favored the Cougs because Minnesota missed a few practices leading up to the game. Even though that is true, Head Coach Tracy Claeys said that the team was adjusting well to the new starters. He went on to say that it is something his team deals with week by week whether it is caused by injuries or in this case suspensions.
On the flip side, the biggest news surrounding WSU is whether or not quarterback Luke Falk will stay for his senior year. Prior to the Holiday Bowl, Coach Leach was asked about Falk’s plans and he said, “I don’t believe he is leaving.”
Throughout the 2016 football season, Falk completed an average of 70 percent of his passes. Claeys was asked how Minnesota was preparing for that kind of accuracy. He said, “Hopefully they’re having a little bit of an off day and whether that’s through drops, or whatever, but it’s hard to rely on him to be inaccurate because he’s done such a good job all year long.”
Claeys was lucky because it did seem Falk and his offensive linemen were having an off day at the Holiday Bowl. It is easy to say that this was Falk’s worst game of his college career. He completed 30 of 51 passes for 264 yards and one touchdown.
During the postgame press conference, it was easy to see that Falk was upset with his performance. He was asked why it was so tough to get the offense going, to which he responded, “We didn’t play like we practiced all week long, all year long, do the things that we do that make us successful on offense, we didn’t do those things. It’s on me.”
With everyone’s eyes on Falk he was then asked the ominous question of whether he will stay at WSU for his senior year to which he said, “next question.”
If Falk decides to head to the draft, the next question is who will Leach choose to take over the quarterback position. The current right-hand man of Falk is Tyler Hilinski. Hilinski played in three games this season against Idaho, Arizona, and California. In all three games the redshirt freshman did a great job at completing passes, averaging 74.4 percent with 245 yards and two touchdowns.
Even though Hilinski is stepping up to the plate, he may have some new competition. Back in November, it was announced that John Bledsoe, the son of WSU and NFL star Drew Bledsoe, has accepted a preferred walk-on at Washington State. For his senior year, Bledsoe completed 65 percent of his passes with 2,670 yards passing, 26 passing touchdowns, and eight rushing touchdowns.
If Falk leaves for the draft and Bledsoe redshirts, it is almost certain that Hilinski will be the starting quarterback for next season, but if Falk decides to stay and Bledsoe doesn’t redshirt, Hilinski’s days at WSU may be numbered.