SPOKANE — After years of enjoying the record-setting exploits of quarterback Luke Falk, Washington State faces big questions looking toward next season.
Falk has graduated and is trying to find a spot in the NFL and that leaves the Cougars searching for a starter among players who haven’t thrown a pass in an actual game. Six quarterbacks took snaps last Saturday in Spokane during the Cougars’ annual Crimson and Gray intrasquad scrimmage. Coach Mike Leach was far from expansive about what he saw from the starters, juniors Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon.
“They didn’t try to do too much, just made routine plays,” Leach said. “I thought the receivers did a good job, I thought the line protected pretty good and just made routine plays.”
He didn’t provide a clue about who might start the Cougars’ first game on Sept. 1 at Wyoming.
Tinsley and Gordon both came out just before halftime. Tinsley was 19 of 24 for 213 yards with three touchdown passes. Gordon was 15 of 21 for 174 yards and one touchdown.
Freshman Cammon Cooper finished 12 of 18 for 120 yards and one TD. Freshman walk-on John Bledsoe, son of former Washington State great Drew, was 7 of 9 for 40 yards. Connor Neville and Casey Brink also threw a handful of passes.
The next Cougars starter could emerge from this group, though there’s also a wild card in the form of graduate transfer Gardner Minshew, who will arrive in the fall.
Minshew, who played for East Carolina, chose Washington State over quarterback-rich Alabama in March.
“Proud to announce that I’ll be playing my last year of college ball at Washington State!” Minshew tweeted.
Minshew appeared in 10 games for the Pirates last season, starting five. He threw for 2,140 yards, completing 57 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. ECU finished the season at 3-9.
Minshew won’t practice with the Cougars until they begin fall camp in August. But he’s already started to learn the Cougars’ Air Raid offense, a pass-based system created by one of Leach’s colleagues, Hal Mumme. Minshew recently spent a few days with Mumme, now at Jackson State, learning the core concepts of the offense.
Replacing the quarterback is clearly a big deal for Washington State, which typically records some 500 pass completions per season, far more than any other FBS team.
Falk threw for 14,486 yards and 119 touchdowns after becoming a starter in his freshman year, setting numerous Pac-12 records in the process. He set a school record by winning 27 games, including seven fourth-quarter comeback wins.